The Unified Government Commission unanimously voted Thursday to give $75,000 to the Downtown 8th Street YMCA in Kansas City, Kan.
The UG is providing the funding to keep the Y open during the next 12 months while funds are being raised for a new downtown YMCA building as part of a Healthy Campus. A year ago, the UG made an agreement to fund the Y temporarily to keep it open.
According to the new agreement, the Y will continue operations and building upkeep at a cost of $6,250 per month, which is $3,750 less per month than the current agreement.
The $75,000 will come from the casino grant that is in the 2014 budget as part of the Consolidated Parks Fund and is not currently allocated for any specific expense for 2014, according to UG information.
When asked by UG commissioners, YMCA officials said on Thursday there were now 663 YMCA members at that location, which are households representing a little more than 5,000 people who use the facility.
At Thursday’s meeting, Commissioner Hal Walker said that this will be the last time he votes to approve any money for this YMCA. He said he didn’t like the way the Y announced its closing last year, pulling out and then being kept open with public dollars.
“At some point the public needs to stop paying for the benefits to a few,” Walker said.
Commissioner Tarence Maddox asked if there were any programs free to the public and was told there is a nutrition and weight program that is free to the community, and also free soccer youth events on four Saturdays in April and May.
Maddox said the UG needs to receive something in return for its funding and asked about the possibility of using the Y building for UG services when a new Y is built.
Maddox also said he would like to see more UG money spent on UG parks and recreation facilities, which may need repairs.
While she supported the Y’s request, Commissioner Ann Murguia said the UG’s money should be linked to UG goals, and she asked if research supported the idea that health improves when people have access to a facility. She said they should be able to demonstrate to the public whether the goal was met – whether health rankings improved or whether people were healthier.
She also said the commission needs to be strategic about its tax dollars, and these requests should be handled during the budget, not outside the budget. She added she could become more of a cheerleader for the project if there were measurable goals to connect to it.