The Georgia Mountains YMCA, headquartered in Gainesville, is losing its White County operations after the White County Commission voted 3-2 to take back its parks and recreation program.
The change will be June 30 — “a very tight timeline,” YMCA CEO Amy Kienle said Friday.
The White County Commission voted June 13 to make the change. The Georgia Mountains YMCA had operated in White County since 2009.
Commissioner Lyn Holcomb, who made the motion to end the contract with the YMCA, said it’s not a move the commission “did on a whim.”
“We’ve met with the (YMCA) several times … and talked about our concerns,” he said. “And it seems we could never come together and solve the problems.”
The troubles revolved around a lack of communication between the YMCA and the county, Holcomb said.
“We asked for things like feeder programs and for coordination between YMCA and high school and middle school,” he said. “And we have not been able to come up with a solution.”
Parents of youth involved in the YMCA programs also voiced several complaints. Most were “from understaffing.” Holcomb said parents and their children encountered problems with scheduling practices and games for the sports, including baseball, basketball, soccer and football. They also experienced problems with fields not being properly lined in time for games.
But Holcomb added the YMCA did a good job with the adult program.
“We are keeping those the same,” he said.
Kienle said the YMCA was a “little surprised” by the action. She said she had personally met with commissioners.
“Our vice president for operations, Greg Supianoski, had weekly meetings with the county manager,” Kienle said.
She said the YMCA officials had heard White County’s complaints over her 2 ½ years here.
“I felt like we were making progress,” she said.
But it was not enough for a majority of the commissioners. In fact, the White County Commission hired Joe Gailey, who had a quarter century of experience in recreation, to evaluate the YMCA program before the decision was made.
Kienle said YMCA officials cooperated with Gailey during his eight-week study. She said the YMCA officials did not have a copy of the study at the June 13 meeting and could not respond to it specifically.
The county commission named Gailey to be the interim director, starting June 30, for its parks and recreation program. Holcomb said the new interim director “hit the ground running” Tuesday with his tasks to transition the program from the YMCA to the county.
“Instead of kicking the ball down the road, we are ready to move on and take it over ourselves and do a more efficient job,” he said.
Kienle said the White County operation had a budget of about $800,000. The county provided $575,000 of that and ground maintenance. The remainder came from membership fees and concessions.
She said White County had 1,188 members in the YMCA program. The program has 53 employees — 25 full-time. She said the county plans to talk to those employees and perhaps offer a job with a 90-day probation.
Holcomb concurred with that statement. He said Gailey has not made any changes to staff, and the employees can re-apply for their jobs under county management.
Kienle said the YMCA has notified the employees about vacancies on the staff in Gainesville.
She said the YMCA’s focus will be on a smooth transition back to the county.
“It’s fairly short notice,” she said. “We’re having to move very quickly to make sure there’s a smooth transition.”
The summer day camp at The Bridge Church in White County will continue for the remainder of the summer, she said. And Holcomb reiterated no summer programs have been canceled.
“We have to scale back a little bit here,” Kienle said, primarily in administrative operations. However, that will take a back seat for the time being until the transition is done.
The commission issued a statement saying it “does appreciate the YMCA’s work within our community over the past seven years.”
“We were grateful to be part of their community. I don’t want to diminish that at all,” Kienle said.