Vote Delayed On DeKalb’s Acquisition Of YMCA

A plan for DeKalb County to buy the South DeKalb YMCA is on hold after the deal didn’t get the four votes needed to move forward from the Board of Commissioners.As heard on the radio

At Tuesday’s board meeting, the six commissioners voted 3-2 with one abstention, in effect delaying the vote for a later day.

Commissioners Larry Johnson, Sharon Barns Sutton and Stan Watson voted in favor of the measure, while Commissioners Elaine Boyer and Kathie Gannon voted against it.

“We have got parks and recreation centers all over this county that we do not have the money to take care of, to staff properly, to fix the buildings, to put in air conditioning so children don’t have to sweat in a hot gym all summer,” Gannon said, adding she’s not opposed to the idea of a partnership. “It’s an embarrassment.”

Under the deal, the county would buy the South DeKalb YMCA with taxpayer-backed green space bonds for just under $5 million, and then lease the property back to the Y for $1 a year over the next 50 years.

The money from the sale would go to rehabilitate the Y and expand its programming.

Gannon said it’s unfair to use the bond money to aid the Y’s renovation while prohibiting the same money from being used to fix deteriorating county parks and recreation centers.

“What do we tell our constituents? We can’t use the bond money,” Gannon said. “That’s a pot of money that the voters agree was going to be for buying green space.”

Commissioner Jeff Rader also opposes the deal but abstained from voting. He said he did so because, in the case of a tie, final say goes to Interim CEO Lee May, who supports the deal.

“If we were getting substantial new facilities, if we were serving an area that didn’t have any recreational facilities, then I think that is a good thing to talk about,” Rader said. “But this is opportunistic.”

But May, speaking before the board, said upgrades are needed so the Y can expand its programming to more citizens.

“This is an opportunity to increase the value and the level of service level the YMCA will provide in a community that needs it,” he said.

Speaking after the vote Metro Atlanta YMCA Chief Operating Officer Eston Hood said he’s still confident an agreement can be reached.

“This is about blending resources to continue to be able to help the broader community,” Hood said. “That’s all it is. That’s what the Y is about and will continue to be about.”

The deal will likely be discussed at the commission’s next meeting on June 24.