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YMCA pleads its case

February 09, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

Hagerstown YMCA board members made their case for $750,000 in county funding for a new building to the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday.

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The commissioners will make a decision within a few weeks, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

"We have had great support from the community and state and we're asking now for help from the county," said David Beachley, a member of the YMCA board of directors.

The board has raised $4.8 million from the private sector and received $500,000 from the state for the $8.8 million project on Eastern Boulevard, he said.

A request for an additional $500,000 in state funds would be more likely to be granted if the county makes a large donation, Executive Director Mike Flicek said.

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The commissioners last week asked YMCA board members to explain why they should receive $750,000 in three annual payments of $250,000.

The commissioners have not voted on the request but the money is in the county's proposed 6-year capital improvement program.

"This is not an expense that can be deferred into the future," said Kent Oliver, YMCA board secretary. "This organization contributes enough to this community to deserve your support."

Last week commissioners John L. Schenbly, Paul L. Swartz and William J. Wivell expressed concerns about funding the YMCA building, and whether doing so would set a precedent. They did not voice those concerns at Tuesday's meeting.

Wivell also has questioned whether the county can afford to make the donation.

The operator of Gold's Gym of Hagerstown wrote the commissioners in December saying it would be unfair to give money to the nonprofit YMCA since it competes against private companies.

The YMCA has been at its 149 N. Potomac St. site for 77 years.

Inadequate parking, safety concerns and other issues have led to a membership decline, Flicek said.

The YMCA has lost $2 million in expected revenues since 1983 because of a 50 percent membership decline, he said. Membership had dropped from about 7,000 or 8,000 in 1983 to about 2,911 in 1997.

There are now about 3,641 members, he said.

The YMCA served more than 9,100 people in 1999 and more than 55 percent were younger than 18, according to information presented to the commissioners.

At its existing quarters, the YMCA doesn't have sufficient room for children's day camp, senior programs and adequate day care, Flicek said.

The YMCA will provide more youth and senior programs when it moves, he said.

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