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Originally published: 2013-01-10 22:58:40
Last modified: 2013-01-10 22:58:40

YMCA group continues discussions

The progress may be slow, but the interest level has remained high in establishing a YMCA in Watauga County.

About 20 people gathered Thursday at the Watauga County Public Library to further discuss the feasibility of establishing a Y, an idea that has been considered locally for almost two decades.

The group did not create a steering committee as organizers had originally intended, but many of those present reiterated their interest and asked questions about the process.

“We want to build broad-based support for the concept of recreation in Watauga County,” said Brian Lowe, one of those leading the charge for a YMCA. “That’s our hope. We want it to be totally nonpartisan, but we want it to be a community effort.”

Bob Conklin, CEO of the YMCA of Catawba Valley, said creating grassroots support was exactly what was needed to get a Y running. He described the typical steps and urged the group not to get discouraged thinking about the money involved.

“Building a YMCA is not cheap; it costs a lot of money,” Conklin said. “… I wouldn’t be worried about that right now, because we need to take some steps to get some momentum to really go after and attack that.”

In his preliminary conversations with Watauga County residents, Conklin said he has seen three major needs named consistently that the Y could fulfill: child care, a new swimming pool and a place for teens to go. Health and wellness programs and sports activities are among the secondary needs, he said.

Going forward, the group will need to create a capital campaign steering committee, survey community needs, review local demographic data and conduct a market study to determine possible locations, Conklin said.

If and when those steps are accomplished, a capital campaign would begin to raise $1 million to support the YMCA’s first three years of operation, he said.

Conklin urged the group to consider which community members would be “must-sees” in getting the ball rolling.

Several of those who attended acknowledged the hurdles that have kept such a recreation center from being created in the past.

In 2010, a proposed quarter-cent sales tax increase was defeated in a countywide referendum. The money was to be earmarked for an indoor recreation center and other needs.

Lowe said the group essentially had two options after that: attempt to better “sell” residents on the publicly funded model, or look at a public-private partnership such as a YMCA.

“Since there are no other cards on the table, we felt it was time to present another option,” Lowe said.