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County wants more information from YMCA

February 01, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners want the Hagerstown YMCA board of directors to help them decide whether the county should provide $750,000 toward a planned YMCA building.

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YMCA officials will be asked to meet with the commissioners within a month to present details about its budget, funding and programs, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said after a commissioners meeting Tuesday.

The commissioners have not voted on a December 1999 request by the YMCA executive director for the county to donate $750,000 over the next three fiscal years to the $8.8 million facility to be built on Eastern Boulevard.

The money is in the proposed county six-year capital improvement program, which was publicly discussed for the first time Tuesday.

The county approves the capital improvement program one year at a time, usually as part of the overall budget in the spring.

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The operator of Gold's Gym of Hagerstown, Eric P. Easton, in a letter to the commissioners in December, wrote that it would be unfair to give money to the nonprofit YMCA since it competes against private companies.

That letter wasn't mentioned Tuesday, but Commissioners John L. Schenbly, Paul L. Swartz and William J. Wivell expressed concerns about funding the YMCA building.

Schnebly asked if the county was prepared to set a precedent of helping nonprofits pay for new buildings.

Wivell also expressed concern about setting a precedent.

"If this stays than we can never say no to a Board of Education capital funding request," Wivell said.

Swartz said he is concerned providing YMCA funding would be "opening Pandora's Box."

Wivell said the county, with its financial constraints, can't afford to increase the amount that goes to charities.

"If we want to increase funding to the 'Y' than we need to decrease funding to another charity," Wivell said.

Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger, who is on the YMCA board of directors, said the YMCA is a deserving charity and is different enough from private gyms to warrant the county donation.

The proposed $20.6 million capital program for fiscal year 2001 is almost $6 million less than this fiscal year's program of about $26 million, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said. The fiscal year begins July 1.

The fiscal 2001 program calls for issuing $13 million in general obligation bonds. The commissioners spent about $7 million in bonds for the 1999 program and authorized issuing $11.7 million this year, Shoop said.

The program was cut by department heads from initial requests of $24 million.

The proposed 2001 program calls for $4.15 million for Board of Education projects, including renovations at South Hagerstown High and Clear Spring Elementary schools.

It also calls for $6.3 million for solid waste projects, $3.1 million for water and sewer projects, $1.7 million for general government and $1.6 million for road improvements.

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