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Boys & Girls Clubs decline to partner on Hall parks
County officials talk with YMCA about some recreation services
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If Hall County outsources its parks program to a local nonprofit, it won't include a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County.

The clubs issued a statement Wednesday that any partnership with the county government would be "outside the scope of our organization's mission."

County officials say they will continue to move forward with discussions with the YMCA regarding privatization of county parks.

The YMCA is expected to submit its proposal Thursday for a takeover of some county recreation services.

The nonprofit will make a formal proposal before the Hall County Board of Commissioners at the board's work session Tuesday.

Though YMCA Chief Executive Officer Rich Gallagher would not release the details of the proposal until the commission had a chance to see it, he told The Times the nonprofit is interested in a future park on Nopone Road, and the Mulberry Creek and East Hall community centers.

The YMCA is also "seeking partnership with the sports programs," Gallagher said.

"The YMCA is here to fill the gaps. ... We just want to help," Gallagher said. "We're concerned for the community and what happens after Sept. 1."

Commissioners Craig Lutz, Billy Powell, Scott Gibbs and Ashley Bell voted in late June to fund the county parks department only through the end of this month.

The move was meant to keep the board from raising residents' tax rates and give county leaders enough time to come up with alternative funding for county-sponsored recreation programs.

Specifically, commissioners said they were looking at outsourcing segments of the department to nonprofits or finding a way for the department to become more self-sufficient through user fees.

Commissioners invited both the Boys & Girls Clubs and the YMCA to the table in late June, meeting with both agencies at least once over the last month.

The clubs declined because of a focus on youth development, whereas the county's leisure services department caters to all age groups and offers a greater variety of services, according to the statement from the clubs.

"Consequently, our organization's leadership believes that partnering with Hall County to provide recreational services would require a realignment of our mission and focus on youth," the statement read.

The statement came after the board of directors for the organization voted against submitting a proposal to the county for a takeover of the recreation services in a specially called meeting Wednesday, board member Abb Hayes said.

"We just came to the conclusion that we serve boys and girls and the Parks and Leisure Services (Department) serves all the citizens of Hall County, including a large number of programs for adults," Hayes said. "It would be very difficult for us to deal with those services since our expertise and our mission is solely focused on boys and girls."

Hayes said the organization is still open to "ongoing talks in the future about any opportunities that might be a good blend of services that are needed in our expertise."

Gallagher also said he hoped the YMCA could partner with the clubs in the future.

"We don't close the door to that at all," Hayes said.

Shortly after the nonprofit issued the statement, the county issued its own from Administrator Randy Knighton.

Knighton said commissioners and staff would continue to seek options for the future of county parks facilities and programs.

"We relish all opportunities to explore partnerships with nonprofits now and in the future," Knighton said in the statement. "We will continue to move forward with our discussions with the YMCA regarding potential privatization of the parks system. We are working diligently to reach a positive resolution that will serve the recreational needs of Hall County residents."

Assistant County Administrator Marty Nix said county staff is putting its own assessment together of the county parks department — detailing what programs are on the line, what parks would close and the cost of operating each segment of the department — to present to commissioners Tuesday.

"I think the most important thing that we can do right now is to give the commissioners accurate and real information that they can use to help them in their decision-making process," Nix said.

If commissioners don't choose the YMCA to take over, only the parks that are shared with the county school system are guaranteed to stay open.

The other programs and facilities under the umbrella of the county parks department have a far less certain fate.

"The other option, as I understand it ... park and rec is not funded on Sept. 1," Nix said.