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Seeking city’s support

FAIRMONT

One year ago, a public meeting on the community center was held at the Opera House. A presentation was given on the status of the project and the public was given the opportunity to ask questions and voice their opinions.

Concerns were raised about the cost of the facility, the operating budget, and potential competition with local convention space and fitness centers.

Since that time, our committee has taken several steps to attempt to address those concerns.

o First, the YMCA has been identified as the entity that will operate the facility. After conducting stakeholder meetings with the schools, CER, young families, senior groups and local fitness providers, and doing its own research, the YMCA concluded that our community was a good fit for a YMCA.

The YMCA will be responsible for making sure the facility is run in a fiscally responsible manner. The YMCA will prepare the yearly budgets and be responsible for any operating losses the facility may incur.

The city of Fairmont would own and maintain the building and lease it to the YMCA. The city would also enter into a maintenance agreement with the YMCA, like any landlord would need to do with a tenant. However, the city would not be responsible for any operating losses at the facility. The city will have the opportunity to support programming at the YMCA if it so chooses, but would not be required to do so.

o Second, the size and scope of the facility has been reduced. In response to feedback and in consultation with the YMCA, the committee has removed the convention center from the facility, significantly reduced the square footage dedicated to fitness and lowered the overall construction cost to $19.9 million. This number is the “all in” amount for the facility, including fixtures, carpet and equipment.

The new design plan can be seen on the city of Fairmont’s website. It still includes an indoor pool with a water slide, a large multi-use fieldhouse with a running track, a senior center and several multi-purpose rooms. The location remains the field next to Mayo and the high school.

o Lastly, the committee would like to acknowledge that there are those in the community who do not feel like their voice has been sufficiently heard in the process of bringing a community center here. The committee understands that despite our best intentions, we have made some errors in how this project has been communicated to the community. We know and understand that you cannot have a community center without buy-in from the whole community. But we hope that this won’t distract from the positive things that a YMCA would bring to our area.

We have now spent almost three years working on the design for the facility, setting a construction budget and identifying an operator for the facility. We have attempted to get as much input as possible from stakeholders in the community as to what should be included in the design. After debating many different options and taking the advice of the experts we hired, we feel the final design presented to the City Council at the work session earlier this week is the appropriate size, scope and cost for a community our size.

With that said, the facility itself is just bricks and mortar. It is what happens in that facility that brings a community together. That allows people of all ages, income levels and backgrounds to come together in one place to do healthy and productive activities. The YMCA’s mission is “to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.” The YMCA never turns anyone away based on an inability to afford its programs. It is the programming that will make this facility truly a community center and a tremendous asset to our community.

We are now at a point in the process that we want all in our community to help develop that programming. The YMCA is proposing to dedicate a 20-hour per week employee to Fairmont for the next year. They will host special events, meet with as many individuals and groups as possible and to really get to know our community and what programs that the YMCA offers will work here. Anyone who would like to have their voice heard on what programs should be included will have many opportunities to be heard over the next year.

On Monday, our committee will ask the City Council to vote on two resolutions. The first is to approve a city contribution of $14 million to the YMCA building. This includes $9 million from the local option sales tax already dedicated to the project. This commitment of funds will be conditioned on our committee raising the rest of the construction cost from private donations and on the city and the YMCA entering into a satisfactory maintenance agreement and lease for the facility. The second is to approve $50,000 to cover the cost of the YMCA coming to Fairmont in 2020 to start developing local focused and driven YMCA programming. We hope the City Council will vote yes on both resolutions and allow our committee to start its fundraising efforts, and allow our entire community to come together to work with the YMCA to develop the programming for this facility that many in our community so desperately need.

Submitted by Brandon Edmundson and Laura Olson, co-chairs of the Community Center Action Committee.

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