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Monroe − YMCA deal opens public pool time

MONROE — City residents will get limited, but free, access to the Y on Fryelands Boulevard under a new public pass program approved last week.
It’s not free-reign access, but a pass would open the door to seven hours per week of swim time and discounted access to YMCA camps.
The swim hours will be Wednesdays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Friday mornings from 9 to 10 a.m., and five hours on Sundays.
The city is paying for a batch of six-month passes. People get their pass by walking in and asking for one, and at the end of six months would have to sign up again.
The only stipulation is to be a city resident. “There’s no financial requirement whatsoever,” city administrator Deborah Knight said.
The passes are distributed at the Y on a first-come, first-serve basis per person.
The city is billed $50 per pass, which limits the city’s cost exposure. The pass value penciled out based on what the services are worth.
“This opportunity is not only helpful, but needed,” a doctor from Sea Mar Medical Clinic told the City Council. “I tell people to go exercise, but there’s nowhere if they have no money.”
A two-parent family membership to the Monroe/Sky Valley Y costs $105 monthly, or $1,260 a year, plus a $100 join fee. Individual adult memberships cost $65 a month. The Y offers financial assistance for those who need it.
YMCA leaders support the move. Providing access fits with the Y’s interest in promoting healthy lifestyles, Monroe Y development director Tania Price said.
City Council members had multiple questions, but unanimously supported the agreement.
“I like that we’re paying for services, but it’s not a blank check,” Councilman Kevin Hanford said.
The city set aside $50,000 for the Y deal in this year’s budget.
A free membership service for residents was disbanded in 2009 because of city budget cuts. That arrangement cost the city $130,000 a year to provide unrestricted access. The Y re-approached the city last summer about bringing back a partnership.
About 3,000 people sign up for youth camps who aren’t Y members yearly, Price said.
It doesn’t seem right that people who can afford a Y membership could grab most of the free passes, said Councilman Kirk Scarboro. He said income screening is fairer to ensure people who truly cannot afford a Y membership can get a free pass.
Price countered that asking for income details at the front desk scares people away.
Scarboro supported the measure because swim lessons provide a life skill some children do not learn. He knew guys in the Navy barracks who enlisted and couldn’t swim — “imagine that, in the Navy and you can’t swim?” he quipped.
Councilman Jeff Rasmussen, who heads the Monroe Boys & Girls Club, criticized the $50,000 obligation compared to, say, $15,000 to the Monroe senior center for transportation. Other councilmembers disagreed with Rasmussen’s objections.
Price had to bat away Councilman Jim Kamp’s concerns the city-funded pass program would create a path — on the city’s dime — for people to join as full paying members. The Y did not see many people buy full memberships when the city cut its access program before, Price said.
Before the vote, Mayor Geoffrey Thomas implored council members to support the program. “The YMCA lived up to their end of the bargain and opened a pool” in September 2007, he said. It’s the only pool in town.
The City Council voted 5-0 last week to approve the contract to applause. Councilman Jason Gamble and Councilwoman Patsy Cudaback, who happens to head up the Monroe Y, did not attend the council meeting.
The city and Y will begin a marketing campaign shortly.


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