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Holts Summit voices frustration with YMCA

Holts Summit voices frustration with YMCA

April 22nd, 2018 by Seth Wolfmeyer in Local News

This May 2015 file photo shows an expansion nearing completion at the West YMCA in Jefferson City. Shown reflected in one of four large mirrors is the Group Exercise Room, capable of hosting a number of activities including yoga and Pilates.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Five years of drama surrounding the relationship between Holts Summit and the Jefferson City YMCA climbed to a new high point last week following the Jefferson City YMCA's decision not to release the city from its service area and the Holts Summit Board of Alderman officially declining a fundraising goal set by the organization to consider bringing a facility to the city.

Earlier this month, Holts Summit City Administrator Rick Hess posted the response from the Jefferson City YMCA denying Holts Summits request to be released on the city's Facebook page. In the post, Hess said the decision left Holts Summit "captive to another entity because of $$$$$."

According to the posted response, the Jefferson City YMCA's reasoning for the decision included its "strong market penetration" in the area with a responsibility to continue to provide services and because it was interested in potential future opportunities. The Jefferson City YMCA also noted in the response it had given a proposed campaign goal and offered collaboration opportunities with Holts Summit.

During an April 12 meeting, the Holts Summit Board of Aldermen voiced frustration with the decision and voted to decline an $850,000 fundraising goal the Jefferson City YMCA had given the city to bring a facility to Holts Summit, saying the amount was not possible for the city to fundraise.

Craig Lammers, chief executive officer for the Jefferson City YMCA, said it is unprecedented for a YMCA to release a service area unless it is ending operations and closing its facilities.

"I would agree that it's been a bit frustrating for all of us," Lammers said. "Certainly, when you're trying to put a project together and looking at different options it does become frustrating for all parties involved."

Hess said he thinks the organization sees Holts Summit as a "cash cow," getting revenue from the area without adding a facility. Holts Summit has a privately owned gym, but Hess said it does not fit the needs of everybody and adding a YMCA facility would be good for Holts Summit.

"If we ever got a Y, I'd want it to be the Callaway Y," Hess said. "I mean, we're in Callaway County. We need to be forging tighter bonds with entities in our county, not as much Jefferson City."

Lammers said the $850,000 fundraising goal Jefferson City YMCA gave Holts Summit came from several factors, including estimated renovation and operational costs.

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"YMCAs don't put YMCAs in communities — communities bring YMCAs to their community," Lammers said. "So that is a significant amount of money, but it's not as if we've asked the city to provide that. It could possibly be various sources of revenue."

The Jefferson City YMCA added a new branch to its system in 2015 when the Southern Boone YMCA opened in Ashland. The community surpassed a fundraising goal of $500,000 by $78,000 to bring a facility to the area. The facility is temporarily in a repurposed building with a long-term goal of building a new, permanent home.

Hess said Holts Summit's frustration with the Jefferson City YMCA started in 2013 when the organization intervened with a potential project between the city and the Callaway YMCA.

Holts Summit was working with the Callaway YMCA to bring in a facility, according to a December 2012 article in the Fulton Sun. The plan included the Callaway YMCA bringing $475,000 to renovate and expand the Holts Summit Community Center.

Hess said the Jefferson City YMCA stepped in to prevent the project from moving forward and did not give the same offer. Since then, Holts Summit's frustrations with the Jefferson City YMCA have only grown, Hess added.

Callaway YMCA has not responded to requests for comment on if it would still be interested in the project.

Lammers said the service area for the Jefferson City YMCA is established through its charter with the YMCA national office using ZIP codes.

Lammers said the Jefferson City organization intervened because Holts Summit's ZIP code is identified as part of its service area. The Jefferson City YMCA also had an established presence in the area, he added.

When it intervened, the Jefferson City YMCA did consider what Callaway YMCA had offered Holts Summit, Lammers said, but decided $450,000 was too low of an estimate and it was not in the best interest to use the community center for the project.

Marty Wilson, a real estate agent who manages a property that was a proposed site for an eventual YMCA facility in Holts Summit, said the city has felt regularly let down by the Jefferson City YMCA over the past five years.

"At this current time, the owner, myself, the city — no one is willing to even work with the Y," Wilson said.