Key leaders among the St. Joseph School District Board of Education affirmed strong interest in buying the Downtown YMCA on Monday.
Gathering at the district headquarters, the school board’s Finance Committee, including Board President Tami Pasley and Finance Chair Rick Gilmore, stated the merits of a YMCA purchase are clear to them at this time.
In the event of a purchase, the YMCA would not close as scheduled on Thursday, Oct. 1. Instead, it would continue to operate as a shared facility owned by the school district and rented by the YMCA for certain purposes, such as therapeutic exercise sessions in the heated swimming pool. The district would otherwise turn the YMCA to its own ends. Gilmore said the YMCA basketball court would, for example, be used as an after-school recreation space for younger students.
Gilmore said he plans a tour on Wednesday morning at the building, 315 S. 6th St.
“We’ve got the crews with the school district to keep it clean and really get it nice,” he said. “And, I think with a minimal expense, we could bring it up to speed and really have a good facility.”
Ron Hook, appearing in his capacity as chair of the local YMCA Board of Directors, told the finance committee to expect an asking price of approximately $450,000. Committee members agreed this would be well below the building’s value in ordinary circumstances; however, to-be-determined amounts would have to be spent on repairs. The building is down to one functional boiler, for example. YMCA of St. Joseph CEO Sue White said it remains too early to know the building’s correct price.
“The important thing to realize is, we’ve sought community partnerships probably since the inception of the Y,” she said. “It’s about collaboration in the community. This is one thing that could strengthen our direction in the future.”
Following an Aug. 15 confirmation of significant mold contamination at the Freshman Annex of Central High School, the district set aside up to $2.5 million to clean and renovate the annex. The project ultimately came in at under $2 million, but the cost of replacing contaminated items has yet to be expended.
District leaders reviewed how this emergency expenditure, only a fraction of which is likely to be covered by insurance, leaves school leaders with little option but to plan for deficit spending in the near future. Despite this state of affairs, Gilmore said, a YMCA purchase would make sense because the district expects to save significant health insurance costs for the indefinite future because acquiring the YMCA would boost employee wellness.
“We could save some money, that’s for sure,” Gilmore said.