Council Approves Ymca Lease Talk At Rumsey Park

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Payson is one step closer to hosting a YMCA.

The town council voted 5-2 at Thursday's meeting to direct staff to look into lease terms for up to five acres of land, potentially in Rumsey Park, for the YMCA.

The motion included a time frame of either Dec. 31 when progress is to be brought back to the council or Jan. 31 when lease terms are to be presented to the council.

The motion is also contingent upon resolving legal questions relating to the project.

The council would have to approve the lease agreement before the project could begin.

Mayor Bob Edwards and councilor Mike Vogel voted against the motion.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board approved a recommendation to lease land in Rumsey on Sept. 12, by a 3-2 vote.

Bill Ensign of Friends of Payson Parks and Recreation and YMCA representatives presented the benefits of the YMCA and reminded the council of two studies that showed a YMCA would be feasible in Payson.

Ensign read the conclusion from a study the town contracted for in 2003 that assessed the need for a YMCA.

"Payson Parks and Recreation does not currently have adequate facilities to provide much more than just basic indoor recreation programs and services," he said.

Ensign said that a YMCA would not interfere with the local gyms in town.

"For the most part, the YMCA will be catering to families and the youth in our community," he said. "The cost for individual membership will be more than that charged by the local health clubs."

The YMCA has a $1 million donation, contingent upon finding land on which to build the facility. The rest of the money for the construction and maintenance of the building would be raised on a donation basis.

Representatives offered estimates upwards of $4.5 million to build the center. Few details about what services and features the YMCA would offer have been finalized at this early stage.

Rachel Oesterle, a fund-raising consultant with Young and Company, said a feasibility study conducted in 2005 revealed that fund-raising would be possible.

"Our study showed that we could, from the people we talked to in the study, which was about 36 people, that we could most likely raise about $2.5 million," she said.

Town Attorney Sam Streichman said that there could be some legal issues involved in granting the YMCA the land at Rumsey.

Streichman said there could be a problem with giving the YMCA a gift of land. He said the town may have to go out to bid for the land, just as it would for any other project.

Streichman also cautioned of the precedent the town would be setting, if other organizations make a similar request for land.

"If another nonprofit with a favorable record walks in the door and says, ‘where's mine,' without setting forth guidelines of how we choose between who gets gifts of our property, there can be legal difficulties down the road," he said.

Louise Echols, owner of the Payson Athletic Club, said the YMCA would likely put her out of business."In no way is the YMCA supposed to compete with tax paying, private individuals and companies and that's exactly what they're doing," she said.

Echols said the YMCA did a study on Payson Athletic Club members that showed that current members would not leave the club for the YMCA.

"I disagree wholeheartedly with that," she said. "The YMCA smells so good like apple pie, people can't help but go and try it out. In that time period, we do not make enough profit at our gym to survive for six months. It would close our doors, I'm sure."

Mel Sorensen, a dissenting member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said he was concerned with the deviation from the long-term plan for Rumsey.

"We may very well decide that we need to have a YMCA at some point in the future," he said. "But I don't think that decision should be made until we've discussed all the plans for the town and where we're going to go."

Dr. Alan Michaels supported the lease agreement for the YMCA.

"We need to have a cooperative effort with the whole town behind it," he said. "From a personal perspective, I have a three-and-a-half-year-old, a five-year-old and a 12-year-old and there is no facility open to the public for my children to get educated on how to play basketball or various sports. I'm very pro after-school programs and I don't see where we have a civic body that has really taken that forward."

Edwards had more than a few choice words in opposition to granting the lease to the YMCA.

"The emotional panic approach to decision making, versus operating on a plan method, is trouble to me," he said. "We are told that we have to do this because the YMCA will lose a million dollars. That is their agenda, not ours."

Edwards stressed the need for the town to protect its land.

"We should be extremely cautious about giving away land, particularly if it's not in a planned manner," he said. "They have not convinced me that they can make this work in small towns."

After the motion passed, Edwards jokingly offered land to other groups in town.

In other news, the council held a first reading on a public hearing concerning amendments to the town's sign code, as it relates to temporary signs.

Several small business owners thanked the council for their willingness to reach a compromise on the code.

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