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Durham YMCA board approves recommendations on Lakewood, downtown, and South Durham Y's

Chuck Clifton of the Committee to Save the Lakewood Y has reported that the Durham YMCA Board of Advisors has voted their support for the Y's task force that examined the future of the at-risk Lakewood Y facility as well as needs in downtown and South Durham.

The Y's recommendations are posted on this YMCA of the Triangle web site. Be sure to read past the press release and open the two PDFs at the bottom of the page to get the details of what's planned (which are alluded to, but not completely laid out, in the chipper and upbeat press release, curiously titled "Future Looks Brighter for Lakewood YMCA!" No, I didn't add the exclamation point.)

Overall, the recommendations seem largely unchanged from those presented at last month's community meeting. The task force recommendation for Lakewood focuses on finding financial support for the Lakewood facility from a third party while maintaining "core services" in the existing facility:

[T]he Durham YMCAs Board of Advisors recommends identifying a partner to purchase all or lease a portion of the Lakewood facility on a long term basis that meets the needs of the YMCA as well as the needs of the surrounding community, and in the instance of a sale, entering into a long term lease for the portion of the facility needed to operate a successful YMCA, as substantiated by the commissioned studies.... The YMCA leased space may include space for youth programs, wellness activities, locker rooms, and the fields.  The YMCA should be able to renovate the Lakewood Locker Rooms, Wellness Space, Youth Program Space and Sports Fields, through the sale or through operational savings. 

The task force also has proposed a number of other priorities, including:

  • Adding youth/family locker rooms, additional group fitness space, and improved nursery space to the Downtown Y -- but with the caveat that the building's envelope/footprint should not be expanded unless additional parking can be found.
  • Working with the City and adjacent landowners "to close Seminary Street in order to increase parking for the Downtown YMCA," a suggestion that raised a bit of controversy in our earlier discussion here.
  • Establishment of a South Durham YMCA program center (presumably also in leased space) by January 2010 in order to serve unmet needs and to "position the YMCA for significant expansion in that area."
  • Aggressively pursuing "community support" for these initiatives -- read, fundraising -- in order to meet desired expansion goals as well as to balance the Durham Y's budged in fiscal year 2009. To help meet this balanced-budget and expansion goal, the task force is also asking the YMCA of the Triangle leadership to change its bookkeeping approach to forgive the "association reserves" for rental spaces like the American Tobacco Y and, soon, Lakewood's facility.

YMCA leadership also answered in writing some (though not, according to Clifton, all) of the questions raised during last month's community forum (see this BCR article for more from that meeting.)

Among these questions:

What would the Y do with the funds from selling the Lakewood facility? "There has been no formal discussion... regarding the use of the funds if the building is sold. The Advisory Board and Durham staff members favor ensuring that funds generated would be used to enhance the facilities at Lakewood and fund other program opportunities for people in the Durham YMCAs. That is consistent with past practices of the YMCA."

Why expand to South Durham? "In Durham County, sixty-two percent (62%) of the people live more than five miles from a YMCA. To serve a larger group of citizens in Durham, it makes sense to imagine a YMCA somewhere in South Durham. While we can imagine a YMCA in South Durham, we are committed to strengthening and improving programs and facilities at Lakewood."

What are the financial expectations for Y branches? "Each branch of the YMCA of the Triangle has the responsibility to serve its community and has the financial expectation to balance its budget. Balancing the budget means funding all direct expenses, funding maintenance and property improvements and its proportionate share of association expenses (HR, IT, Finance, Marketing, Administration, etc.). Ideally, every program and every branch should have the breadth of support from enrolled participants to balance its budget....

Any surplus that is accumulated at year’s end is used to expand existing programs and facilities at that Y or in a nearby community which that branch hopes to serve. Lakewood has not met the full objectives in balancing its budget objectives for a long time. The budget shortfall has made it impossible to make necessary upgrades to the Lakewood facility.... Some Durham YMCA Advisory Board members favor using some of the proceeds of the sale of Lakewood for a Program Endowment or a Maintenance Endowment. We will forward that recommendation to the appropriate committees."

One very positive development to come from the Advisory board is the suggestion to create four committees to be staffed by community volunteers -- Marketing & Membership, Fundraising, Programs, and Youth Sports. The task forces, which would meet monthly, would "primarily serve the Lakewood YMCA" but also address issues and opportunities with other Y's in Durham.

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