Tuesday, April 29, 2014 || By Michael Romain
MAYWOOD — West Cook YMCA Chief Operations Officer David Parsons, its new CEO Phillip Jimenez and board members Phil Gordon and Roberto Sepulveda were on hand at an April 15, 2014, board meeting to discuss the possibility of the village sharing the financial burden of operating the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center at 300 Oak Street in Maywood.
The West Cook YMCA has operated the pool since being approached by the village in 2011. Last summer was the first full season in which the pool had been operational since it was forced to close for repairs in 2012.
“Last summer was a bad weather summer and that affected how things turned out,” Parsons said while presenting the proposal to the board. “Operationally we did well, but not financially since we didn’t have the weather to drive traffic to the pool that we needed.”
Parsons noted that it cost the West Cook YMCA roughly $80,000 to operate the pool, half of which it didn’t recoup. To avoid sustaining similar losses this upcoming summer, the YMCA proposed that the village provide 50 percent of the financial support. In addition, it proposed that the village share some of the responsibility of marketing the pool and developing local champions to promote the pool in formal and informal settings. In exchange for sharing costs, the village would also share in any profits that may be realized.
“We need to sale more season passes and group rentals,” Parsons said, before Mr. Gordon addressed concerns among residents that seem to have been prevalent ever since the organization took up a presence in the village.
“The Y’s motivation is not to employ YMCA people,” said Phil Gordon, who resides in Maywood.
“Our intent is to employ Maywoodians as often as we can. It is not to capture and control maywood’s pool, it is to ultimately [but gradually] release the pool to Maywood….Our intent is to promote community growth…that’s why we sustained the losses we did last year and are willing to once again sustain a loss if it is shared by the village.”
While the board seemed receptive to the YMCA’s proposal, there were also indications that the very formal collaboration that Mr. Parsons and Mr. Gordon were proposing the village facilitate seemed lacking.
For instance, when YMCA representatives met with Mayor Perkins, Trustee Toni Dorris and interim Village Manager David Myers in the weeks prior to the April 15th presentation, there were no representatives of the park district present; nor did there appear to have been any other meeting arranged prior to April 15, that would’ve included them.
Indeed, much of the dialogue between Mr. Parsons and the board went along the lines of certain members of the latter shooting ideas to the former, with the burden of implementation placed primarily on the YMCA.
“In your meeting with the Mayor,” asked Trustee Cheryl Ealey-Cross, “was there an opening to extend an invitation to a representative from the park district?”
Although Mrs. Ealey-Cross didn’t specify who precisely would be responsible for extending the invite–the village or the YMCA–Mr. Parsons said that his organization is open to working with all parties and touched basis with the park district’s program director about collaborating on a basketball program this summer.
Trustee Ron Rivers inquired whether or not the YMCA had approached District 89; Trustee Audrey Jaycox wanted to know who would “make up the marketing pieces;” and Trustee Dorris stated that, “for marketing purposes, we need to reach out to our alumni both elementary and high school. We cannot forget our churches. Our businesses should be asked to sponsor a pool day and our park district can do something for the pool.”
However, it was rather ambiguous at which responsible party these directives were targeted–the village staff or the YMCA. Pressed for time–the YMCA’s target date for opening is Memorial Day–something had to be done to expedite the collaborative process. After the board finished discussing the matter, Mr. Parsons and Mr. Gordon stood awkwardly at the public podium, obviously expected to simply walk away. But before doing so, they had a suggestion.
With the board leaning toward approving the YMCA’s cost-sharing proposal, it would be wise that, during the interval between April 15th and tonight, April 29th (when the board is expected to take an official vote on the necessary expenditures), some action be taken that would allow staff to work with the YMCA on the legal language of a pending agreement.
In a moment of bureaucratic improvisation, the Mayor called for a board consensus to allow the staff to work with the YMCA on crafting the language. With a consensus obtained, the approval was granted–a swift action that probably wouldn’t have been taken absent the YMCA’s urging.
While the village taking a financial stake in the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center’s success is a bold step in its ultimate goal of operating the pool independent of the YMCA, the April 15th meeting was a subtle, but salient indication that the continued operation of the Center still seems to be a rather one-sided affair. VFP
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly wrote that it cost the YMCA $40,000 to operate the Fred Hampton Pool, half of which it didn’t recoup. The correct amount is roughly $80,000. In addition, it failed to mention that interim Village Manager David Myers was also included in the meeting. This article has since been emended.
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