Delaware leaders revisited the city's relationship with the YMCA of Central Ohio during a council work session March 2, with some officials saying it's time to take back control of the city's recreation.

The discussion was part of a conversation designed to review council's priorities and strategic goals. A similar work session was held in February.

Council members began a review of the city-YMCA relationship last August, airing a number of personal complaints, as well as those of the public.

The Delaware Community Center YMCA, 1121 S. Houk Road, was built using funds from a city income-tax increase voters approved in 2008. It raised the income tax from 1.4% to 1.55%; the current income-tax rate is 1.85%, according to delawareohio.net.

The 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 the city's recreation services.

Complaints that arose in August included the YMCA's refusal to grant access to the rec center's pool for outside organizations, and frustration over the Y's operation of the Jack Florance Pool at Mingo Park.

YMCA of Central Ohio CEO Tony Collins in August said the Y was prepared to discuss all points of contention with the city.

"We are committed to sitting down with the city leadership. ... These items are important to the partnership," he said.

Since then, city officials said, a number of meetings and conversations have taken place with YMCA representatives.

The March 2 discussion centered on the city resuming control of the Mingo Park pool and possibly the city's recreation services.

City Manager Tom Homan told council recreation services are under contract to the YMCA for the rest of 2020. He also said council members have indicated they want the city to at least resume control of the Mingo Park pool by 2021.

He emphasized the YMCA will continue operations even if the city controls all municipal recreation services.

That detail might be confusing for the public, he said, considering the center is named Delaware Community Center YMCA. But several central Ohio cities -- including Gahanna and Hilliard -- have both YMCA centers and standalone city recreation departments, he said.

Homan said the city is planning a needs-assessment survey, to be conducted by telephone and mail, to gather feedback from the public about recreation services. City documents earlier said PROS Consulting of Indianapolis would conduct the survey.

Homan also asked March 2 what feedback council members have heard from the public.

Council member Lisa Keller said she has heard from people who mistakenly believe they can't sign up for the city's baseball league because they don't belong to the YMCA. That's led some to seek another league elsewhere, she said.

"It's just confusing for people, and I wonder if that's why the numbers (of participants) are down," she said.

Council member Kent Shafer said he coached for the recreation league for many years.

"We ran it all then, and we had problems then, too. ... Back then, we got complaints from the parents, and the kind of stuff we're hearing now, we heard then," he said.

"If we're having an assessment done, I don't think we need to make the decision too soon. ... For us to switch to having our own recreation department again, I think we need to know pretty clearly that it's going to be better than what we have now.

"To me, that's kind of like the line in the sand," Shafer said.

"I think we have to get ahead of the Mingo Pool thing also," Keller said. "I mean, summer is coming very soon and I think a lot of people are expecting their Y membership to get (them) into Mingo."

If the city resumes control of the pool, she said, the YMCA might be able to help the city alert of public of the change.

Responding to a question from Keller, city parks and natural resources director Ted Miller said, "I think there's definitely some room for improvement there, especially with the confusion as a huge thing."

With youth baseball and basketball, he said, certain grades are in the city league and other grades are in YMCA programs -- another source of confusion.

"I think separating those out to some of the recreation programs that (the city operated) before would make a lot of sense.

Miller said taking back recreation services isn't something that the city should "jump into" but said the recreation-needs assessment should help.

Council member Chris Jones, who said he favors the city taking over recreation services, said, "You're saying take on first the most popular programs."

Homan said he agreed it would be premature to make any decision before the needs assessment is completed.

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