By SHANNON WATKINS
As at prior meetings, the Pulaski Town Council considered various options for helping out the Hensel Eckman YMCA with various projects at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Town Manager John Hawley noted of the YMCA, “The Tuesday senior program has been started. About three or four seniors have been taking advantage of that each day. Obviously some days more than others, but it’s about three or four average.”
Hawley said that town staff members had met to review the list of requested maintenance items from the Y, which had been brought up at the last council meeting. Most of the needed work, he said, would be done by the public works department, and potentially by parks and facilities.
“Of course you’ve got to remember we only have one full-time person in parks and facilities most of the year,” he added, before saying that since the tasks for the Y would take the town employees away from their regular work, staff recommended the town not trade work for memberships and other programming.
“And again an alternate approach might be for the town to pay costs associated with offering the youth programming,” Hawley said. “I guess it was a couple years ago we budgeted $5,000 to the YMCA and they operated I think it was a Sunday program for town residents and town youth at that time.”
Dan Grubb, former interim director of the YMCA, said to the council, “After discussions with John and reading the recap of your recent work sessions in the newspapers, the board of the YMCA completely understands and appreciates your concern on how the town can absorb the extra maintenance work and the role of what we were asking for, particularly how to modify and improve the pool area.”
Grubb said the Y would continue to seek partnerships with local businesses and other entities to hopefully make a similar exchange as that proposed to the council, before moving on to a new need facing the Y: its pool.
“The need to refurbish the pool is a different opportunity that we now face,” said Grubb. “Known to be the only indoor pool in the county, we still believe that it’s a major cost factor to the Y, but it is still a major public asset to our community. The life of this feature is at risk. We must now seek alternative ways to find maintenance required to meet this need for our community. Thus, we challenge you, as leaders of the town of Pulaski, to become the first business partner in our new campaign. Opportunities exist as sponsors of the programs we previously mentioned.”
“The YMCA is committed to taking these lemons, and let’s make lemonade,” Grubb said.
Councilman Dave Clark said, “It’s one of the most important things we have, from a fitness standpoint and from an opportunity standpoint, in town. Obviously we as a town had serious issues before us long before we started talking about the Y, but the opportunities are there for us to find other ways that we can be of help to them. I’d love to see some additional staff come before us to tell us how we can go about that and maybe work towards at least some other way that we can support them.”
“I agree 100 percent,” said Councilman H.M. Kidd. “The Y is an asset to the town. I wish there was just some way that we could help more.”
Councilman Jamie Radcliffe asked, “A couple years ago before my time, did the council financially help the Y? How did that work?”
Hawley advised that the council added $5,000 to the budget for the Y, which then opened on Sundays for town residents.
Mayor Jeff Worrell inquired, “There was a strong response, wasn’t there?”
“Doing it by memory, I know that’s a dangerous thing anymore, but about 60 or 70 people started out,” said Hawley. “I think it went down a little as it went along. It allowed some of the Y members to come in on a Sunday, too.” He said the program in question lasted for about a quarter.
Radcliffe said, “I don’t have an issue with financially helping the Y. None of us want to see it go down. I was raised in the Y. I’d like to work, y’all help me out, with our youth and seniors, if we financially help them, let’s make them the benefactor [sic] of this thing. Our youth don’t really have a lot of options but for the Y. Cause we want to give something back to them. I can afford membership myself. Most people in here can. But we have young people who can’t, seniors who can’t.” He said he would like to see a program specifically for those citizens.
“I’d certainly be far more comfortable as we do with other 501(c)’s, with some set amount of money that we provide to the Y, to support whatever programs they need,” said Councilman Greg East. “That’s certainly a comfortable position for me, and it’s well-defined.”
“I’ll reiterate what Mr. Clark said,” said Vice Mayor Joseph Goodman. “We need to support the Y, but I think we’re talking about something a little different…surely there’s some programs we can sponsor at the Y throughout the year.”
He mentioned possibly working with the Y to get swimming opened up at Gatewood Park, and then said, “I think we need to hear some of the ideas the Y has. But I think the time is now to act and not sit on our duff and wait for them to do it. If there’s something we know that we want to work with them on, they’ve already given us some options, I say don’t delay.”
Worrell asked, “Let me throw this out. If there was a special amount — what would council think about a one-time deal helping out the situation with the pool?”
“I think that’s probably the most important issue it sounds like the Y is facing right now,” said Goodman. He said that if possible, it might be a good idea to set aside a specific couple of days to send town staff to work on the pool, as opposed to trying to fit it in with other things.
He advised perhaps trying this in the fall when there would be less mowing going on to take up the town employees’ time but still no snow. “I’m sure there’s a time that could be determined to make that work,” he said.
Radcliffe said he would like this to happen; Kidd said he thought all the work for the pool area should be done at the same time. East wondered about the possibility of bringing in volunteers to help out if the town led the effort, assuming no problems with insurance.
“That’s a novel idea,” said Grubb. “And I’m sure the Y and the board would be very conducive to that, that we could make it a community endeavor. And one of our biggest constraints is the scaffolding and the knowledge and the know-how. We need guidance. If we work the timetable out, I’m sure the community will follow your suit. You lead the charge and I’m sure they’ll follow behind, too. But they need a proponent that basically says ‘we care.’ And I challenge you to take that first step. And our board and others will follow, I guarantee it.”
“Do we have an idea, Mr. Grubb, of what kind of time frame we’re talking of, with the man-hours required [on the pool]?” asked East.
“No sir, I don’t,” said Grubb. “All I have is an estimate from an outside contractor projecting [the cost] to strip the paint and strip the walls. But it’s something we could work on with Bill [Pedigo, town engineer] and his staff for planning purpose type things.”
“What programs are in the most dire need of sponsorship?” asked Worrell.
Grubb answered, “There’s no doubt in my mind we would like to continue the cardiac program for the elderly people, and maybe combine it with a membership program with our existing cardiac program. There’s a dire need for youth nights during the course of the year, dance or swim events, whatever it may be that we can affordably do. Likewise the swim lessons.”
He continued, “Our goal, and we’ve already created this, is to go out and get additional business sponsors, corporate sponsors, to sponsor some of these events, for members of our community who maybe can’t afford to be a Y member. I like the idea, as I mentioned, as far as a partnership arranging a work schedule, or a community effort type thing to refurbish the pool…we may be able to get area contractors to donate material equipment, those type things, even labor, to come and do it.”
Hawley said that a significant amount of paint would be needed for the pool area. “Maybe the Boy Scouts can take this on as a project to raise enough money to buy a few cans of paint,” he said, also mentioning the possibility of looking for grant programs.
Goodman brought up the benefits of persuading town employees to join the Y, possibly involving, “some sort of organized wellness program using this as a major component,” he said. “If we were to pay part of that membership for our employees as part of a developed wellness program, what kind of benefit that might return to us, say, in reduced insurance costs? We have a 16.7 percent increase this year. What would it look like next year if we started a serious program for health and fitness?”
Larry Bandolin, a member of the Y, stepped forward to address the council. “I’m a relative newcomer to the YMCA,” he said, explaining he and his wife have been going for eight months. He went on praise the Y’s management and said, “My wife and I are both seniors; it’s a fabulous, fabulous program they have up there. All I’m asking is that [council] and the mayor do support the Y.”
With the discussion concluded, council moved on to other business.