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County to help Caroline YMCA with February loan payment

Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Despite concerns by some elected Caroline County officials, the county will take money out of its general fund to put toward the $103,000 loan payment that’s due in February for the Caroline Family YMCA.

The matter came up near the end of a Jan. 28 meeting of the Caroline County Board of Supervisors. Assistance with the payment, which is for interest only, doesn’t require a vote of the board.

The county provided $60,000 for the August 2013 payment.

The grand opening of the facility in Ladysmith is planned for March, county officials noted.

“We’re working to get U.S. Senator Mark Warner as the keynote speaker for the grand opening,” Supervisor Wayne Acors said. Warner, a Virginia Democrat, is running for re-election.

In 2011, the Board of Supervisors entered into an agreement with the Rappahannock Area YMCA to give the organization $5 million to build a Caroline YMCA. The county accomplished this with a secured loan from SunTrust Bank. The collateral for this debt is the Bowling Green Elementary School, which recently underwent a $10 million expansion and renovation. Apart from this gift and the loan that made it possible to make the gift, there are 10 interest-only payments on the SunTrust loan. The payments of $103,100 are due twice a year—February and August.

Revenue from proffers from new construction projects in the county could be put toward the project and lower the county’s contribution toward the February payment from $103,000 to $96,000, County Administrator Charles Culley said. “Any thing else that comes in, we’ll add to it,” he noted. Any remaining amount will come out of the county government’s general fund.

Supervisor Jeff Black asked, “What happens if we don’t make the payment?”

“We would default and this could affect our other areas of borrowing,” Culley said.

“This is a giant slap in the face,” Black told supervisors. “A foundation came and said they would raise money. We’re paying only the interest now. I have said this will be an $8 million YMCA” instead of the original $5 million.

In 2011, it was announced that the 42,000-square-foot, $5 million facility would open in the fall of 2012. It has a gym, an indoor pool, a fitness center and exercise rooms. Membership fees are based on a member’s income. Construction problems have delayed the opening. One problem occurred when concrete was poured when the outdoor temperature was too cold, which resulted in walls having to be torn down so concrete could be poured when the temperature was right.

Five years of $200,000 annual payments adds up to $1 million in interest alone, Black noted.

“No question, the YMCA is a good thing,” Black said. But county officials were told no taxpayer dollars would be used. Black pointed out that $200,000 is equal to a penny on the tax rate.

Black expressed concern that a $1,000 contribution from a donor would go toward the interest on the loan, rather than the principle.

Acors said that would be $1,000 that Caroline County didn’t have to pay.

Jeff Sili, the vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said he would like to “see in writing the naming rights” for the YMCA.

“Making this payment is close to the end of our patience,” said Floyd Thomas, chair of the Board of Supervisors.

“This discussion will continue to go on,” Acors said.

“This is not about value,” said Supervisor Reggie Underwood. “I didn’t know we would be going down this road. The YMCA will belong to Caroline County. I’ve worked with the YMCA in Richmond and witnessed how they can change a community.

“I voted for the YMCA, but had I peeled the onion back more, I would have gotten to this conversation sooner,” Underwood said.

“Yes, it is costing us,” Underwood said. “But I hope we will get to the point where it is not costing the taxpayers. I’m frustrated, but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m going to do all I can to make sure we recoup the funds from the YMCA.”

The Caroline YMCA lists as its mission: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all. According to its newsletter released on Jan. 29, the YMCA is enrolling members for spring swim lessons for March, April and May. Six classes are $36 for members.

Starting in March, the YMCA will offer a middle school program to help students with homework and provide physical activities, as well as science and cooking projects. It also includes character building and community service—all for $45 a week for members and $65 a week for non-members.

Co-ed youth basketball registration starts Feb. 17 for members and is $30. Non-member registration starts March 1 and is $70. Games will start March 29 and be on Saturdays and Sundays.