By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
YMCA withdraws Hall County parks proposal
Fees for recreation services will likely rise
Placeholder Image

The YMCA has withdrawn a proposal to help run the Hall County Parks and Leisure Services Department.

The nonprofit was slated to present its plan to take over aspects of the department Tuesday, but when the time came, the Board of Commissioners postponed the discussion until today when county staff would be ready with its own proposal to run the department on nearly half the funds it had been getting.

The YMCA responded in a news release Wednesday that it does not wish to compete with the county.

"The YMCA's intentions have always been to simply help the county and the community, to be a partner not a competition," YMCA CEO Rich Gallagher said in the release.

County Administrator Randy Knighton, through a statement, said he was grateful to the YMCA for allowing the county to explore privatization.

Commissioners who spoke with The Times were also
united in an effort to thank the nonprofit for its efforts, even though some said they were eager to keep the agency in the county's control.

With the possibility of privatization presumably off the table, Assistant County Administrator Marty Nix will present a plan to the Board of Commissioners today to continue operating the department under county control.

Commissioners will have to approve funding for the plan Nix proposes.

Commissioners called on the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County in late June, seeking possible alternatives for recreation.

Facing an $11.5 million deficit in operating funds, commissioners cut the recreation agency's funding from approximately $3.1 million to $1.3 million.

When they approved the spending plan, commissioners said the funding would allow the department to run as-is through the end of this month and provide for the start-up of a new incarnation of county recreation services that did not rely as much on tax dollars.

Mostly, the talk centered on privatization.

The Boys & Girls Clubs decided against any partnership last week, claiming taking over county recreation services was outside the organization's mission to serve youth.

The YMCA forged ahead, submitting a plan late last week to take over the county's community centers.

The YMCA plan promised to cut taxpayer support of county recreation by 20 percent in four years without raising user fees.

The nonprofit was seeking $458,334 in county funding to support its efforts during a 10-month trial period.

Following the departure of former Parks Director Greg Walker nearly two weeks ago, county officials said they had begun to work on a Plan B proposal.

County staff have, so far, kept their plans close to the vest, citing a need to finalize the proposal before making it public.

Alternative plans to the partnership with the YMCA include either moving money currently budgeted for other departments or dipping into the county's reserve fund, commissioners said last week.

It also likely means fees for recreation services will rise.

Nix will present that plan at the Board of Commissioners meeting at 1 p.m. today in the Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St. SW, Gainesville.

Commissioner Scott Gibbs and Chairman Tom Oliver both said they wanted to keep the department under county control.

Though some commissioners said they planned to choose between the plans or some sort of hybrid plan at today's meeting, others were hesitant to make a decision so soon after seeing the proposals.

Commissioner Craig Lutz said that, because of accounting policies for the current parks department, commissioners had no way to compare the YMCA's proposal with anything else.

"I feel like it would be better if Hall County goes ahead and gets its house in order before we entertain ideas on how to outsource (the department)," Lutz said.

Still, Lutz said there may be the possibility of partnering with the YMCA in the future, but he said he was also confident that staff proposal "will at least get us through this budget year."

"I don't know that it's going to be a perfect solution," Lutz said.