Ymca Study Needs To Be Studied

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The Payson Town Council recently rejected a public transit system that came gift wrapped in a guarantee from the Arizona Department of Transportation that it would not be allowed to fail.

Among the reasons: at about $110,000 a year cost to the town, it was too expensive. And, several councilors expressed doubt that the ridership estimates were accurate.

Now comes the study by The Winfield Consulting Group to build a YMCA, swaddled in the same rosy projections as the transit study.

"If you build it, they will come" -- without affecting private gyms and health clubs in town -- without duplicating programs already offered by parks and recreation -- and, best of all, without costing the town a dime.

We hope the council will put the YMCA study under the same microscope it used for the transit study. Here, in fact, are two obvious questions they can start with:

  • Is the total projection of 876 households with "a lot of interest" or "a great deal of interest" any more accurate than the bus ridership projections, and, if so, is that a sufficient number to support the facility without town subsidization?
  • Is the fact that the study determined two-thirds of those interested in a YMCA to be price sensitive to the point that they would only join at the lowest rate a red flag?

The presentation to the town council Thursday by Buck Winfield was long on platitudes and short on proof. To some extent, that's the nature of studies.

We're not saying the YMCA wouldn't be a wonderful and much-needed addition to our community. It most certainly would -- providing all the numbers add up, and they probably do.

After the presentation, Town Manager Fred Carpenter made the case for a Payson YMCA more succinctly than anything Winfield said during his half hour-or-so presentation.

"They tell me that the national average is around 4 percent that have a great deal or a lot of interest, but in our case we have about 8 percent, which is twice the national average," Carpenter said.

That's a compelling statistic. But if the council is going to reject a public transit study because the numbers don't add up and it comes with a price tag, it should make sure a new YMCA won't end up with one too.

You know what they say about free lunches.

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