Delaware: How a city, YMCA partnership can work

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Delaware Assistant City Manager Jackie Walker was at Marysville City Council’s work session Monday night.
She was there at the request of Marysville City Manager Terry Emery. He said he will be bringing in a variety of speakers to speak about their experiences with recreation facilities and the YMCA.
“I believe in this partnership,” Walker said. “I believe it can work for Marysville. I know it works for Delaware.
Walker told council that in 2007 Delaware city residents passed a tax levy to have a community center built. She said the city built a $15-million facility and leases it to the YMCA for $1 a year. The YMCA operates the facility and runs the city’s recreation programs.
Before joining with the YMCA, city officials considered operating the community center through the city.
Walker said running a recreational facility and programming would have been very taxing on the city’s human resources department. She said with the agreement, the city’s parks director is freed to focus on parks.
“The City of Delaware is not an expert in running a recreational facility,” Walker said. “The YMCA, this is what they’ve done for decades — they run programs and facilities.”
She said the city even explored other potential partners.
“We had spoken to a number of partners and they weren’t able to make it work,” Walker said.
She explained that the YMCA was able to equip and staff the facility. She said the YMCA didn’t just install exercise equipment, but also things information technology and furnishings as well
Delaware residents and those working in the city receive a 10% discount on membership.
The assistant city manager said some residents have pushed back at the idea of paying for a levy as well as for a membership. She said the levy price is far below the membership rate.
Walker said it is imperative that city council sets or approves the membership rates. She said the city is currently having discussions with the YMCA about rates as well as further discounts for city residents.
Delaware pays the YMCA $200,000 annually for the programming. The YMCA is responsible for every aspect of the programming including insurance. Even so, the city mandates a minimum number of programs, including some that are available to members of the public whether they are a YMCA member or not.
The YMCA also operates the city’s outdoor water facilities. Walker said that if the programming or the pools take a loss one year, the YMCA absorbs that financial hit, not the city.
Additionally, she explained that all maintenance and upkeep at the facility is the YMCA’s responsibility.
“The Y has to pay for everything,” Walker said.
She explained that many city employees are members at the YMCA and they keep her informed about the maintenance and condition of the facilities, adding that while the YMCA leases it, “the citizens of Delaware still own that building.”
Walker said the city does not have a seat on the YMCA board because it is largely a fund-raising entity rather than a policy making group. Marysville Council Member Scott Brock asked what happens if YMCA leadership and city officials have a difference of opinion over maintenance or equipment.
Walker couldn’t answer except to say that it hasn’t been a problem.
Officials said they did not receive opposition from private gyms in the community because the YMCA acts more as a community resource than a private gym. She said the gyms do not see the Y as competition.
Walker said she believes buying the building and partnering with the YMCA would make sense, but urged the Marysville council to learn from Delaware’s mistakes. She said Delaware is in the middle of the lease period and trying to put “a little more teeth into our original lease.”
Walker said the city began requiring a semi-annual membership survey and less frequent survey of the entire population. She said the YMCA is required to meet certain satisfaction benchmarks.
Walker explained that as more residents are able to work from home, proximity to a job is less important and the quality of life becomes more important.
of life and they want those recreational opportunities.
She said Marysville is not the only community exploring options for YMCA partnerships.
“We have been a template for a number of cities considering this type of facility,” Walker said.
She added, “we have actually talked to so many communities, I have a file on my desktop so I can just send it off to them as they look and contact us.”
Emery said he will bring an official from a community with a municipal run community center to speak at an upcoming meeting to help council members, “explore all our options.”



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