YMCA to conduct feasibility study to determine need

Cliff Clark

April 9, 2014

The Northwest North Carolina YMCA will soon conduct a feasibility study to determine the level of support for establishing a Y in the county, specifically at Jefferson Station in downtown West Jefferson.

Curt Hazelbaker, the CEO of the Northwest NC YMCA, offered that information to the West Jefferson Board of Aldermen during its regular meeting Monday night at the West Jefferson Town Hall.

“It’s a learning process for us now,” said Hazelbaker after he detailed to the aldermen the steps that will be taken over the next several months to determine if the county has the resources, support and need, both financially and from the community in general, to justify the establishment of a new Y.

This is not the first effort at establishing a Y in Ashe County, said Hazelbaker, adding there have been five or six groups over the last decade who have approached the organization about siting one here.

But none, he said, have gotten this far along in the process, primarily because the owners of Jefferson Station have indicated a willingness to donate the facility for the establishment of a new Y.

“Having a building (offered) is something we have not had in the past,” said Hazelbaker.

Another element in the process, he said, is conducting a feasibility study that involves interviewing 30 or 40 people to determine if a Y could offer services other county agencies don’t currently offer, like swimming lessons, literacy programs, education camps, and youth- and teenager-oriented programs.

That process will begin in the next few weeks, said Hazelbaker.

Another part of the investigation process, called a “gap assessment,” would be done before a final decision is made to move forward. The assessment involves looking at the types of programs currently being offered by other organizations in the county and making sure there wouldn’t be any overlap of services.

“We try to see what community programs we offer that aren’t currently offered by other organizations…we’re not here take over what’s already being done. We want to complement existing services,” said Hazelbaker.

Hazelbaker answered a few questions from the aldermen, including one from James Reeves, who asked if the decision is made to move forward if local contractors are used for the renovations. Hazelbaker said local contractors would be used.

If the Y decides the community can sustain the organization, the next step is raising approximately $2.5 million needed to renovate the facility to Y specification and create an endowment that would fund the ongoing operation.

The endowment would provide an ongoing source of operational funding.

“Generally, when we open a Y it loses money the first year or so while we’re building up memberships and this would help sustain it through that building process,” said Hazelbaker.

The aldermen also heard a presentation from the Ashe County Library’s Peggy Bailey.

The library will be applying for a grant in the next few months to fund the construction of a sundial in the town’s park and Bailey appeared before the board to asked for its approval.

There was some confusion about where the sundial may be placed, so the aldermen asked Bailey to return at its next meeting with a detail drawing of the proposed location.

The aldermen also approved a new town cemetery policy and approved a “can shake” fundraiser in the downtown by the Ebenezer Children’s Home.

On the board’s agenda was a proposal for a zoning variance to allow a beauty shop to open in a residential area of the town.

Alderman Calvin Green said he thought the decision should be delayed until the May meeting because Dr. Brent Summey was not in attendance at the meeting.

Alderman Tom Hartman said he thought the person deserved an answer on the zoning variance request.

“I believe we need answer as soon as possible,” said Hartman.

Green then made a motion to table the proposal, which was seconded by Alderman Stephen Shoemaker.

Mayor Dale Baldwin accepted the table motion and said the issue would come back before the board in May.

In other board business:

• Town Manager Brantley Price said approximately $990,000 (96 percent) of the town’s annual tax levy had been collected and that the funds for the last “streetscape” bumpout at the intersection of 2nd Street and Jefferson Avenue had been released. The town would now be bidding out the design phase of the project.

• Charles Call, water and sewer director, updated the aldermen on the recent leak the town’s water system experienced. At one point, the system was losing 190,000 gallons of water each day. The leak was finally found and repaired. He also said a sewer line on Burkett Avenue needs replacement.

Cliff Clark can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cliffcclark.