Delaware City Council members Aug.12 questioned whether taxpayers are getting their money's worth from the Delaware Community Center YMCA, 1121 S. Houk Road, built with funds raised by an income-tax increase voters approved more than a decade ago.
In 2008, voters approved an income-tax increase from 1.4% to 1.55%; the current income-tax rate is 1.85%, according to delawareohio.net.
The 2008 tax increase was an element in the city's plan to construct a recreation center and lease it to the YMCA of Central Ohio. The plan also called for the YMCA to take over management of city recreation services and for the building to include space for the Ohio National Guard.
A report written by City Manager Tom Homan said city and YMCA officials have discussed the city's concerns about YMCA policies. They include the YMCA's refusal to grant access to the community center pool for outside organizations, including USA Swimming and Force Aquatics.
"At this time the YMCA is not able to commit to allowing access, but their leadership has agreed to discuss options internally and will provide a response during the coming weeks," Homan wrote.
Councilman Chris Jones said the YMCA's refusal to provide access for the swimming groups is unacceptable, adding, "There's nothing the YMCA can say to me to ever change my mind about that."
Lolita Haverlock, the YMCA's regional vice president of operations, told council the YMCA wants to mend its relationship with the city.
When she finished, Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle told her she failed to say anything about the concerns of the swimming-organization members who had identified themselves by a show of hands in the audience.
Councilwoman Lisa Keller said the YMCA's prices are excessive, something that "has to change immediately."
She said the YMCA uses a formula based on average incomes in the city and county to determine its rates.
"Those two numbers are significantly different," she said, adding only the city paid for the YMCA building.
The Delaware Community Center YMCA's rates range from $36 a month for an adult ages 18-29 or $52 a month for an adult up to age 61, to $90 a month for a family of two adults and two children.
The YMCA gives those who live or work in Delaware and Liberty Township residents a 10% discount -- "but for that opportunity, we pay the very highest rates in all of central Ohio," Keller said.
In comparison, the Liberty Township Powell YMCA charges $50 a month for an adult age 30-61 and $87 for a family of four.
Keller also said the YMCA's management of the Jack Florance Pool in Mingo Park -- which the city had managed earlier -- has led to unsafe conditions.
She said the pool's entrance once was left unlocked overnight, and the pool's water once contained no chlorine.
The city is legally accountable for what happens at the pool, she said, with "no ability to act or change anything that's happening with the Y."
Councilman Kyle Rohrer said the Mingo pool situation needs to be addressed immediately; councilman Jim Browning added, "I think we need to fix this."
Councilman George Hellinger said the Mingo pool needs to return to city management. He also noted the YMCA leases the Houk Road facility, limiting the city's ability to influence its operation.
City attorney Darren Shulman said the YMCA leased the building for 20 years, with the option of four five-year lease renewals.
Keller said the city has no issues with the YMCA's employees, who, she said, do amazing work, but with management-related issues.
Leaders also discussed resuming management of the city's recreation services.
City parks and recreation director Ted Miller said such a step would require advance research to determine what residents want in terms of programs.
Haverlock said she and Central Ohio YMCA CEO Tony Collins are new to the job, each having assumed their posts about 60 days ago. An immediate goal, she said, is to find a way to manage the issues during the current season before finding long-term solutions.
"I think we're all in agreement that it needs to be better from the perspective of we're all working the same goal," she said.
ThisWeek could not reach YMCA officials for further comment before press time.
Homan's memo said YMCA officials agreed to prepare a 60-day plan to address "the most pressing and current needs."
The plan will address pricing, pool accessibility, communication, facilities and maintenance, sports, the rec center and financial reporting, he wrote.
Homan said city officials will work on a plan for resuming recreational services.
Although three or four programs have had disruptions over the years, he said, the YMCA has about 10,000 members.
"A lot of people appreciate and like the facility," which the city could never afford to operate on its own, he said.