Fellow citizens of Fairmont
To the Editor:
I had the opportunity to speak at the Fairmont City Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 14th regarding my position on the community center. I contemplated on republishing the entirety of that speech but I have decided to give highlights as I feel some of the pointed words at the city council were heard by who needed to hear them and to continue the use of disparaging words only takes me down to that level where so many people are trying to fight this project. The time to start healing is now. Here are three points made in opposition of the community center by city council members and my debunking of each complaint:
Competition to existing business: We have had numerous new businesses (i.e. Scooters, Bomgaars, and O-Reilly’s) that have entered the same market share as existing business and none of the existing businesses have closed.
Concerns regarding closures of other YMCA’s – I pointed out that the closures they used for examples were all within a period in which Covid was wiping out many businesses. The YMCA would not be immune to the same conditions.
Raising of taxes – The community center has major donors lined up that explicitly stated to the council that money should not be an issue as no fund raising was enacted due to the council’s inability to give the go ahead. If someone has already donated millions to this effort, I would feel confident that their passion is such that they will come through for the community. I do feel that many people view this as a city project and therefore do not trust it because of the city’s current lack of success in these types of issues. We are not trusting the City’s word; we are trusting the word of private donors and major businesses in our town who want this to develop. The community seems to be concerned about the City’s involvement with the project based on past experiences (i.e. Aquatic Park). The City will only be involved in cutting the check for $14 million and then will have no hand in the operation or finances of the YMCA. In fact a representative went so far as to say in so many words that the review of the aquatic park books is one of the reasons why they do not want the city involved.
During the presentation at the November 9th work session, levy numbers were presented that represented IF the city were to ask for more money from taxpayers and I think this confused people and made them scared. It is clear that this project has only two options 1) the construction is fully funded through the sales tax and private donations or 2) It will not get constructed and the vision will die. If they can raise the funds, you will see NO property tax increases or levies to build this.
People want to focus on the “what if’s,” which in some situations is very important. The problem with focusing solely on the “what if’s” that can make this a failure we lose sight of the fact that what if this works? If someone approached you and gave you a new car, would you refuse it based on “what if” it breaks down some day. I am sure most of us would not. You are off the hook citizens of Fairmont. The YMCA is a stand-alone business that we are assisting to come into our community, no different in concept than the small business loans that we have handed out in the past. If the Community Center committee can raise the funds, we have no financial obligation to build it or keep the YMCA afloat in the future. Why say no?
Ward 1 citizen of Fairmont