Although the board of the Southern Prairie YMCA has not made an official decision to drop its association with the YMCA, members of the board said they may not have a choice Wednesday during the public forum at the Southwestern Community College multi-purpose room adjoining the SPYMCA.
“They are putting things in place that are telling us we’re not going to be a Y in three to five years no matter what we decide here tonight,” said Tom Lesan, boardmember. “They’re going to force us out and we’re going to be doing this either now when it’s our decision or later.”
The survey sent out in January received around 400 responses out of approximately 900 members, which were mostly positive with 72% of the online surveys saying members would stay with the facility without the YMCA affiliation. The paper surveys have not been officially counted yet.
Board president Jim Nelson outlined the benefits and drawbacks of the association with the YMCA, saying that the benefits did not outweigh the costs.
The yearly fee to remain a YMCA is approximately $12,500. Executive Director Dana Dodge said that money could be better spent on community projects. Members of the audience suggested it could also be used to supplement wages in order to help retain staff.
Name recognition and reciprocal use of other YMCA’s are the chief advantages to remaining a Y, Nelson said.
Johnny Ytzen, who has used his membership with the SPYMCA to work out at other facilities, added that many other places, although they allow members of other YMCA’s, have restrictions such as the number of times it is free. Some of them charge a small fee every time.
Loretta Harvey asked the board if they had thought about any accommodation for the railroaders who use the facility.
Board member Mike Taylor said they have discussed the issue and that the railroad does have some options for their employees including a grant program he has looked into.
Lesan, who has been with the SPYMCA board since its inception, addressed a concern from the audience about name recognition and the choice to become a YMCA at the beginning.
“We went with the Y because of programming,” he said. “We didn’t have it. They had it ... Now we have it.”
The national YMCA does provide health insurance and retirement benefits to some staff members, but board member Mike Taylor said that very few of the employees qualify for them. Dodge said she believes the same benefits can be provided for the same cost if local resources are used.
Nelson went on to describe how the requirements from the state and national YMCA have continued to increase., saying there is more required training and reporting now than ever before. Dodge said the facility uses an expensive YMCA system for checking patrons in and handling checks, costing around $1,000 per month.
All employees, including part-time, are required to attend up to 40 hours of training. Some of those employees only work a few hours a week or are seasonal, Nelson said. If they don’t do the training, the YMCA could declare that the SPYMCA is out of compliance and say that it cannot remain a YMCA.
Dodge said that although the YMCA of the USA holds training sessions, they are expensive and must be paid out of the local budget.
“I could be at a ‘small Y’ conference in Florida right now,” Dodge said. “But you’re looking at $5,000 for me to go do that, which would have been a great opportunity to learn tons of stuff, but we are restricted resource-wise.”
Dodge cleared up a misconception from the audience saying that the national and state organizations do not financially support the local YMCA.
“Currently we are membership based,” she said. “We’re just trying to keep this building open and sustainable for years to come, and it’s hard when you are giving all this money out to all these places without getting anything in return.”
The city of Creston owns the building and currently provides $30,000 of annual funding for the SPYMCA. The facility also holds two major fund raisers each year.
Board members spoke of the changes the national and state YMCA is making that have caused them to believe the SPYMCA will eventually be forced to leave the organization.
“What kinds of communities are becoming Y’s?” Lesan asked. “If you’re not 25,000 people, you cannot become a Y ... We’re probably going to have to make this decision one way or another now or in three years.”
Things that won’t change
The SPYMCA is already its own corporation with its own 501(c)(3) status, board member Skip Kenyon said. They would only need to file a name change with the state and the IRS to make this transition.
The programs such as fitness classes, the Parkinson’s group and child care will not change. The SPYMCA does not currently use any of the programming from the YMCA of the USA because it is too expensive to pay the franchise fees Dodge said.
Rates to use the facility will not change for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t see us being able to raise that and still have a membership base that will pay for the operation,” Dodge said.
The ability to pay monthly, yearly and/or by bank transfer will not change. Kenyon said members may have to sign a new form for their bank, but the process will remain the same.
“We will do the changing on our side to make sure it all fits and works,” he said. “We have no intention of starting over.”
Nelson also said he spoke to the plant manager at Bunn-O-Matic who said that as long as the facility remains non-profit, the company would continue to subsidize their employees memberships.
The staff at the facility will continue to be required to attend safety training. Although Dodge said it is difficult sometimes to get part-time employees to attend the training seminars, the requirements will be lessened but not removed.
Taylor added that the SPYMCA’s insurance and the state and federal laws would still require training for their staff. There are several options to join a group to provide accountability for the training such as Iowa Park and Recreation Association or other private options.
Stingray swim team coach Nicole Webber said that there may be some benefits to the team if they decide to use a program other than the YMCA. Swim USA has year-round meets and events that would suit the team because they have access to the indoor pool at SPYMCA.
Webber said that she must register for the year by May 1, but if it looks like the SPYMCA is planning to go through with the name change, she can go ahead and work with USA Swim or even register with both associations for now.
Dodge said that because the dues are paid to the national YMCA organization monthly, SPYMCA can make the change at any time. However, there are still details to be worked out before it can happen.
Once a final decision has been made to leave the YMCA program, Nelson believes the change could happen as early as June. Dodge gave her estimate for the change as fall of this year. She later added that due to the interest and questions from the members, the board will likely hold another public forum before finalizing its decision.