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Posted: 3:11 p.m. Friday, July 18, 2014

Y Because We Like You? 

By Bill Crane

"Young man, there's a place you can go.
I said, young man, when you're short on your dough.
You can stay there, and I'm sure you will find
Many ways to have a good time.

Lyrics from the song Y.M.C.A., by The Village People


The YMCA, the Young Men's Christian Association, and its sibling the YWCA, are excellent organizations with a longtime track record of positive contributions in DeKalb County and across the country.  There are six YMCA's in Atlanta, including the East Lake FamilyY, attached to Drew Charter School, along Memorial Drive, and three currently located in DeKalb County, including Decatur, the South DeKalb Y and Wade Walker Park YMCA. 

I have most recently toured the East Lake Y, and swam with my daughter at Wade Walker Park, and it's wonderful mini-water park.  The Y is a private organization, and we're not current members, so we paid visitor/user fees.  Single and family memberships are not inexpensive, and run several hundred dollars per year.  Likely well worth every penny, but not open and accessible to every member of the general public or local DeKalb taxpayer, without paying a fee.  I'm not suggesting that the Y waive its own stated policy of "Everyone is Welcome"...I'm just making a simple distinction between a public park, library or publicly owned asset...and a private one, no matter how worthy or valid their mission

A major and positive accomplishment of the administration of former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones, was the passage of a SPLOST referendum to benefit parks and libraries, focusing predominantly on improving or building out new green-spaces in then under-served south DeKalb County. 

Within 8 square miles of the South DeKalb Y, DeKalb County has already invested in excess of $35 million from the developmental funds from the Parks Bond, as well as additional county and federal grant dollars for senior centers.  These include the Browns Mill Recreation and Aquatic Center ($8.9 million), Exchange Park Multi-Generational Recreation Center ($7.2 million), Redan Park Recreation Center ($5.4 million), Wade Walker Park and YMCA ($13.6 million) and the Lou Walker and Candler Road Senior Centers

DeKalb County built out the Wade Walker Y, which the organization operates and leases back for $1 per year.  The Cousins Foundation similarly funded and has a lease back for the Eastlake Family Y.  DeKalb does not have the funds available or SPLOST funds designated for needed repairs and renovations for the Tucker Recreation Center, the Lithonia Recreation Center, building a Rec Center at Mason Mill Mark or the long overdue replacement of the Tobie Grant Recreation Center in Scottdale.

For nearly five years, the county and the Y have been quietly negotiating the purchase/lease back of the South DeKalb Y at a cost of nearly $5 million, including $4 million in county-wide acquisition funding and $1-million in District 3 and 7 Parks Bond Land Acquisition Funding.  The project has strong support from district commissioners Stan Watson and Larry Johnson.  Hoever, recent appraisals have the South DeKalb Y facilities at $2.5 million, and the adjoining land appraised at $400,00.  Including equipment and other intangibles, the Y estimates the market value at $3.9 million.  So even agreeing with the Y, the county would be over-paying by $1-million, with no funds set aside for renovation and expansion of the dated facility, and the Y bringing no new dollars or set re-investment plan to the table.

Certainly, we all might enjoy a public park or recreation facility within a stone's throw of our own front door.  But in the real world, resources are limited, and sometimes tough choices must be made.  South DeKalb is now well-positioned with multiple recreational offerings including several county and senior facilities and two YMCA's.  Funding or purchasing a third in the area is bad business and ignores the needs of many other existing facilities open to all DeKalb residents across the county.

It simply isn't enough to answer this multi-million dollar question and request by this Y with a Yes...just because we LIKE the Y.  WHY because we like You is a more appropriate answer for The Mickey Mouse Club, but not for making multi-million dollar funding decisions against the backdrop of continuing limited resources...and in an area with plenty of other existing recreational options available.  Perhaps the Village People could host a fundraiser?

Bill Crane

About Bill Crane

Bill Crane brings more than 25 years of public and private sector experience to his firm, CSI Crane.

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