Following an influx of concerns that have been raised in regard to the YMCA’s handling of recreational services in the city, Delaware City Council held a discussion on the matter during its Monday meeting.
In 2012, the City of Delaware and the YMCA entered into a management agreement for recreational services. Among the services included in the agreement are the operation of the Jack Florance Pool at Mingo Park, youth and adult sports leagues, and various events such as Harmony in the Park, the Easter egg hunt, the Pumpkin Run and Walk, and more.
According to the agreement, the city pays the YMCA a fee each year to run those facilities and programs, with the YMCA keeping the proceeds from the events and programs. That fee has risen through the years since the agreement was made. In 2012, the first year of the agreement, the city paid the YMCA $185,000 to run the programs and events. Last year, that fee totaled $198,802, and this year it will increase to $203,772.
Assistant City Manager Jackie Walker, speaking during her final city council meeting before retiring, said the first year of the agreement was rough with a “big learning curve,” but both sides were able to work through it. She said from 2013-18, there was general satisfaction from citizens and members of the programs, in large part due to the fact there was an executive director appointed in 2013 to oversee all operations listed in the agreement.
Walker associated that satisfaction with the fact that any issues that arose were “quickly handled in a manner that was concurrent with how the city would have handled the issues had we been running those programs.”
One issue, in particular, in which she praised the YMCA’s handling was starting a recreational youth soccer league at the request of the city after residents expressed concerns about the higher cost and more competitive nature of the Delaware Youth Athletic Association’s league. Walker said the YMCA’s willingness to create the recreational league was just one example of a good partnership.
However, Walker then highlighted several of the concerns both herself and many of the elected officials in council have heard from their constituents in regard to the YMCA’s recent handling of the agreement.
Among those concerns has been the lack of lifeguards at the Jack Florance Pool, which, in turn, affects the allowed capacity in the pool. There is a 1:25 ratio of lifeguards to patrons, which is standard for pools. But Walker pointed out if only six lifeguards are present, rather than the full staff of 12, the pool can only allow 150 people in.
Issues with the pool not being secured, and non-YMCA staff being left to secure the pool in the evening, have also been raised.
Walker added there had been issues with how the chemicals and resolution testing for the pool water was being documented, which she noted has also been flagged by the health department. Lack of reports, which she said are important to Parks and National Resources Director Ted Miller and his staff to stay on top of things, has also been problematic.
She went on to say that under the leadership of Lolita Haverlock, who is the regional vice president of operations for the YMCA of Central Ohio, and combined with significant time spent by city staff, the agreement is moving in the right direction in regard to the expressed issues “for now.”
“Me, personally, I am cautiously optimistic that, under the leadership of Tony Collins, the new CEO of the (Central Ohio) YMCA, we might possibly be able to salvage the recreational services agreement,” Walker said. “But that’s yet to be known.”
Collins said he was briefed on the partnership with the City of Delaware soon after he accepted the CEO position. But while he feels he has a good understanding of where the agreement currently sits, he said he needs to simply listen more as he spends time in the Delaware branch to continue to get a better hold on what needs to happen moving forward as he takes over.
“The YMCA is committed to this partnership,” Collins told council. “We’re committed to, above all things, safety … we respect the role that council has to play in making sure the citizens’ concerns are heard, and we will do our best to make sure we get some resolution and put an action plan forward so that there is that resolution and follow up.”
Councilman George Hellinger said he was not interested in hearing how turnover or lack of management all together within the YMCA has affected the services. Rather, he said he is beholden only to the city of Delaware and its residents, and that the YMCA’s operation has been unsatisfactory in several regards.
Councilwoman Lisa Keller suggested a possible solution could be naming someone with ties to both the city and the YMCA to lead the services and programs. She said council members are always 100 percent accountable when constituents come to them with problems such as the ones raised with the service agreement, but, ultimately, they don’t have any authority to call for specific changes.
Keller asked that perhaps such a solution, which she said would better represent a true partnership, could be an option as discussions between Collins and City Manager Tom Homan move forward.