YMCA of Central Ohio CEO Tony Collins says the organization is not giving a "hard no" to a request from a swim team that wants to use the pool at the Delaware Y.

A report to Delaware City Council written by City Manager Tom Homan said city and YMCA officials have discussed Delaware's concerns about YMCA policies, including the fact that outside organizations, such as Force Aquatics, want to use the pool at the Delaware Community Center YMCA.

Before the YMCA can comply, Collins said, the Y and city officials need to "talk about how that works. ... What are the parameters of that policy? ... Let's figure out how to do this right."

Such detailed talks with the city are needed in part, Collins said, because the city and YMCA signed a lease agreement that prohibits use of the community center, 1121 S. Houk Road, by outside non-YMCA groups open to the general public.

The lease says the YMCA has exclusive use of the building that was constructed with a 0.15% income-tax increase city voters approved in 2008. (The city's overall tax rate is 1.85% in 2019.)

It says, "Neither landlord (the city) nor the state shall conduct activities within the project with members of the general public in competition with activities conducted by tenant (the YMCA)."

It adds, "Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, it is expressly acknowledged and agreed that no basketball leagues or exercise classes open to the general public shall be operated in the gymnasium to be constructed within the training center, no day camps shall be operated on the athletic fields ... and no other organized activity open for general public participation shall be conducted ... "

Collins said such a policy is standard practice for YMCAs across the country, regardless of whether they have a municipal partnership or lease.

Collins said a number of factors are behind the policy, foremost among them the fact the YMCAs pay all costs to operate the centers, and their members -- who number about 10,000 in Delaware -- provide that money.

The YMCA members and program participants "are our priority," he said "They pay membership fees (and) keep the Y open."

Scheduled use of facilities at the rec center also exists for the YMCA members, he said, and that scheduling could be compromised if outside groups are allowed.

In a spirit of partnership with their communities, Collins said most YMCA facilities allow high school swim teams to use facilities' pools.

If an outside group uses the pool, it could raise the question if outside groups should have access to the YMCA basketball courts or any other Y facilities, he said.

Because the implications and details such a decision would entail, he said he doubts the issue can be resolved "in the time frame that the swim team needs an answer."

He said he became YMCA of Central Ohio's CEO on June 17 and the request to use the Delaware Y's pool was made July 5.

YMCA and city officials have met to discuss pool access and other issues, Collins said, and more meetings and phone calls between the two will occur.

"We are committed to sitting down with the city leadership," he said.

Some city leaders also have taken issue with the YMCA's rates.

City Council member Lisa Keller on Aug. 12 said the fees are too high, considering Delaware taxpayers are paying 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.

In comparison, the Liberty Township Powell YMCA charges $50 a month for an adult age 30-61 and $87 for a family of four.

In his memo to council, Homan 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.

The 60-day effort "is our attempt to address the concerns," Collins said. "These items are important to the partnership. Let's set conversations about them now."

Lori Houck, a member of the Force Aquatics executive board, addressed council during its Aug. 12 meeting.

She said the team was "created due to the failure of the Delaware YMCA to appropriately offer services for the competitive swim community."

Houck said the team has been using pools in Lewis Center and Westerville, which lack the space to handle all swimmers interested in Force Aquatics.

"I know this is stressful," Collins said. "I want to be respectful of everyone involved: parents, council, the administration."

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