YMCA charts pool partnership

  • Thursday, February 28, 2013

Voters in November approved the money to build an aquatic center, but the tricky details of how to manage the pool and finance operations remain to be worked out.
To help map out options, the Summerville Family YMCA hired a consultant, Ken Ballard of Ballard*King & Associates, who arrived Tuesday to speak with the YMCA, Dorchester School District 2 and other interested parties.
He’ll look at demographics, growth patterns, other pools in the area, the key elements to be included in the pool, and expected financial performance of the pool, and will have a report to the YMCA in the spring giving options for how the partnership between the YMCA and the school district could work.
Gary Lukridge, CEO of the YMCA, compared Ballard to a marriage counselor helping the two entities determine their roles.
Lukridge said the YMCA wants to be prepared so when the school district is ready to talk about the pool, the Y can answer any and all questions that might arise.
Key among them are the long-term division of responsibilities.
“That tends to be one of the areas that’s often not well thought out,” Ballard said.
The bond referendum covers only the cost of building the facility. It doesn’t cover the operational costs of running the facility or extras the Y might install – for example, exercise equipment in a fitness room.
Nor does the referendum provide for future expenses, such as when equipment must be replaced.
The Y is expected to take on all operational costs, so the contract with the school district would need to be long enough for the Y to recoup its investment, Ballard said.
Contracts for similar partnerships have been anywhere from five years to 20 years long.
Still to be determined are the location of the aquatic center and the fate of the existing Oakbrook pool.
Although most discussed prior to the election focused on putting the aquatic center on county land in Oakbrook, near the current soccer fields, Ballard is looking at other locations, including Pine Trace and The Ponds, to see where the pool would perform best.
The current Oakbrook pool was built in the 1980s, and the Y is looking at whether it’s feasible to continue to operate it once the aquatic center is built.
Ballard’s report should also include suggestions for allocating facility usage amongst different groups.
In addition to talking to the Y and the school district, he’s talking to Summerville Mayor Bill Collins, Summerville Medical Center, swim teams, and other stakeholders.
The school district’s needs will come first, he said, but then “the question becomes what are the expectations in terms of community access.”

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