Despite concerns about competing with the private sector and other issues, Lacey City Council on Thursday approved spending $22,000 on a feasibility study to determine whether a new YMCA should be built in the city.
The council voted 3-2, with Lenny Greenstein and Jason Hearn voting no. Mayor Andy Ryder and Councilman Virgil Clarkson were absent Thursday.
Making the pitch for the feasibility study funding was Kyle Cronk, the new president and chief executive of the South Sound YMCA. He met with the council in a work session that followed Thursday’s council meeting.
Lacey is not alone in the process. The cities of Olympia and Yelm plan to contribute funding to the study, but not at the same level. Olympia will spend $18,000, while Yelm will contribute $10,000, Cronk said.
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The difference in funding levels didn’t sit well with some Lacey council members. They also didn’t like that the results of the study might point to creating a YMCA elsewhere, such as in Olympia over Lacey.
Cronk acknowledged that the YMCA has to address its downtown Olympia branch and the 107-year-old building that it occupies.
“We need to do something about that building,” he said.
That’s why Greenstein voted against the funding.
“I’m not sure Lacey has the most to gain,” he said. “The first activity could be to replace the 107-year-old building.”
Hearn voted against the funding as well, saying he wasn’t ready to make a decision. But he also shared his positive experience as a youth of attending the YMCA’s Camp Seymour in Gig Harbor, and how it shaped him as a Christian.
He also asked this question: How is the YMCA handling the transgender bathroom issue?
“We are open to everyone,” Cronk said.
Council members Michael Steadman and Jeff Gadman as well as Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt voted in support of the funding, but they, too, had questions.
If a new YMCA should come to Lacey, Steadman was concerned about the effect on private health clubs, although he also said competition is good. He said $22,000 is a small price to pay if if results in a multimillion dollar YMCA opening in the city.
“The strategic risk is very minimal for the amount of return,” Steadman said.
On the issue of competition, Cronk said the YMCA is much more than a gym. It focuses on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility in the form of volunteerism.
“And nobody is competing to give away almost $1 million in scholarships,” said Cronk, citing a key YMCA service.