MILFORD—With the possibility that county tax dollars may be needed to finish the new YMCA, county officials questioned the CEO of the Rappahannock Area YMCA, Barney Reiley, at the Caroline County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday night.
Board members indicated they are still split on their stances with the YMCA. A recently published letter to the editor by Supervisor Jeff Sili predicts that county taxpayers could wind up paying $8 million for the YMCA building that is still under construction in Ladysmith. The county government borrowed $5 million to build the YMCA.
In 2011, it was announced that the 42,000-square-foot, $5 million facility would open in the fall of 2012. It is supposed to have 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.
Supervisor Jeff Black asked Reiley to provide for the board some background information as to what led the YMCA to want to build a facility in Caroline. Reiley answered that Caroline is part of planning district 16, a geographical territory which includes Caroline, as well as Spotsylvania, Stafford, and King George.
YMCA officials had wanted to make sure that a Y was built in each of those localities. There is currently a YMCA in all three other localities. Black asked other questions concerning the process of selection of areas for YMCA, including specifics on fundraising campaigns for the other localities, and how many “rooftops” the YMCA looks for before deciding to build in an area. Reiley stated that the YMCA likes to feel confident in having 1,000 billing units. YMCAs in King George and Spotsylvania have surpassed this number and are now closer to 2,000.
Black then asked the question that has been the source of division among board members, as well as concerned citizens of Caroline, asking Reiley if he was aware that a promise was made that no taxpayers dollars would be used in the building of the YMCA.
Reiley responded that yes, he was aware that was the intention. Reiley also said the agreement was that he would personally assist in helping to raise funds for the Caroline County YMCA.
Black adamantly argued that the original promise be kept, saying to Reiley, “You said you were committed to do whatever it takes.” Reiley addressed Black and the other board members saying again, “I will be there. I can’t commit my board, but I will continue to help.”
Sili voiced his concerns about the construction and completion of the Y, asking bluntly, “Where do we stand on construction?” Reiley told Sili that he anticipated being in the building by late fall, “between Thanksgiving and Christmas.” He assured the board that the YMCA will be open in 2013.
Sili then shared his concerns about the change orders for construction and their lack of details. Sili asked if the board could be presented with descriptions of the change orders, to which Reiley responded that if those documents are in accordance with the agreement then he would be happy to provide them.
Sili also mentioned the promise made early on that no taxpayers dollars would be used during the construction of the Y. Reiley said the YMCA will be “finished within budget.”
Supervisor Reggie Underwood began by stating that he understood his colleagues’ “concern for transparency.” He asked Reiley, “What are the pitfalls?” Reiley assured the board that the project is transparent, “There is no hidden agenda with the Y. This is a good thing for the County.” Underwood mentioned that he would like, at the end of the process, to inform taxpayers that this project did not cost them any amount of money.
Wayne Acors had no questions for Reiley, only stating that $5 million was the grant agreement, and any overruns are not his problem, or the county board’s problem. That would be the Y’s problem.
Calvin Taylor asked Reiley to go over some of the benefits of having a YMCA for the county. Reiley responded that through the YMCA citizens of Caroline County “will have an opportunity to improve their quality of life.” Reiley went on, giving examples of how there are programs designed to help senior citizens, address childhood obesity and teen pregnancy, offer family recreation activities, and supply children of the county with their first jobs.
Underwood asked Reiley to whom the building belongs. Reiley stated that the YMCA would own the building for three years, after which the county will have the option to purchase the building.
Ben Emerson, the county attorney, explained that there is a formula involved, which will result in the purchase of the building at no cost to the county. Underwood also commented that, in his opinion, if one dollar of the taxpayer’s money is used during the process, that it won’t be “the worst thing in the world.”
Underwood added that the board was talking about taxpayers dollars as if it were “heaven and earth,” reiterating his belief that whatever dollars are put into it, the YMCA will be “a great thing for Caroline.”
Floyd Thomas, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, reminded the board that the YMCA would not have come to Caroline at all if the Rappahannock YMCA Board had been required to raise all of the money for the project. “We will try to work through this,” he said.
Toward the end of the discussion, Acors implored the board to “work together and move forward.”
Acors added, “It does us no good to be at each others’ throats.”
The newly formed Caroline County Education, Recreation, and Wellness Foundation, represented by Bowling Green Mayor David Storke at the meeting, has pledged to help promote healthy lifestyles in the county by assisting with funding and fundraising for the YMCA, as well as other possible future projects.