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The Richmond Recreation Department has been looking for stability for some years and may now be looking at an old familiar name to help in their cause.
City Councilmen Jason Berning and Scott Marshall have been in discussions lately with the Kansas City Area YMCA about moving into town.
Under the current proposal, YMCA would take over management of recreation activities in Richmond with the eventual goal of building a new recreation center.
Berning said at an informational meeting last week that the goal would be for YMCA to be self-sustaining eventually. In the beginning the city would pay YMCA a 12 percent fee out of revenues.
Most concerned with the plan was City Finance Director Melanie Allwood. Allwood said the recreation department is budgeted to come in under about $115,000 of projected revenues. Allwood said the city should wait and see where new Recreation Director Haley Morrissey takes the department. Morrissey has been on the job just a little more than a month.
“My concern is that we just hired an educated and degreed recreation director. She really hasn’t had a chance to try it yet,” Allwood said at the meeting. “We have to make sure they break even, plus 12 percent on top. I don’t think now is a good time financially to have the luxury of having someone else come in and manage it for a 12 percent fee.”
Allwood added that the city just spent millions on the new city hall and activities in the gym have not been given a chance to succeed.
“We already told the voters that we have a community center here at this building and we really haven’t got it going and we’re going to ask for more money?” Allwood questioned.
Richmond Fire Chief Lonnie Quick said he has been to several YMCA facilities and spoke in favor of them. Quick said at one time the whole city hall complex was discussed about becoming a recreation center with an indoor swimming pool and workout facilities.
“We didn’t really end up with a community center, we ended up with a gymnasium,” Quick said.
Councilwoman Melissa Miller said she is concerned about the future of the recreation budget. She said she is concerned that with a budget in the red people could lose interest or the city might not be able to afford the losses in the future.
“I don’t know how many more years I want to see the Rec Department consistently lose money and the people not want to invest their time,” Miller said. “I think this is one thing that would set our community apart from other communities in the area.”
Marshall said if the city did enter into an agreement with YMCA, Morrissey would still be in the picture. He said YMCA looks local when searching for management of their facilities and said her experience would probably keep her in Richmond. Morrissey also has interned at the YMCA in her hometown of Macon, Mo.
Marshall also said this is something that is going to happen soon. He said a survey that will be administered by the Chamber of Commerce could serve as a good barometer for area interest.
“This won’t be an overnight thing,” Marshall said. “This won’t be that we wake up tomorrow and have a YMCA running our programs. We need to see if it’s something people want.”
City Administrator Rick Childers said the city shouldn’t be the driving force behind an effort to attract a YMCA.
“I think it would be a lot more successful if it had about a dozen people in the community behind it,” Childers said.
Some cities have a YMCA program that works regularly with city run recreation departments. The city of Chillicothe has a successful YMCA program that serves people from a seven county region according to Grand River Area YMCA Director Dave Rogers. Rogers, who has been director since 1991 said the program started out small in 1989.
“We just started out with a few programs in church basements and schools,” Rogers said.
He said in 1990 a capitol campaign was started to raise funding to build a YMCA center that the area enjoys today. The campaign raised more than $3 million.
Rogers said the city recreation department and the YMCA regularly join together for events such as a run that the city hosts in the summer. Rogers said the city was not the driving force behind YMCA, but has had a partnership with the city from the beginning.
“We do a number of joint programs and we have a very good recreation department here,” Rogers said.
Morrissey said she is open to any ideas the city has.