Roving Reporter | "Huge Crowd Meets with Rockport City Council to Discuss the Pool and YMCA" | Article and Photos by Jeanette Larson

A full house gathered at Rockport City Hall

A huge crowd gathered in Rockport City Council chambers at 1:30pm on June 27, 2017 for a "workshop" session held to discuss the Community Aquatic Center's interface with the proposed YMCA (see related post). Although a show of hands was not permitted to demonstrate those who were there in support of the community pool, and some people were there for the annexation hearings that would follow, more than half of the attendees left at the end of the regular agenda.

Mike Grey
Mayor Wax kicked off the session by explaining that a workshop session allows for the "exchange of ideas." Although speakers would be limited to three minutes, there were no limits on speaking when answering questions from Council. The only item on the Regular Agenda for the workshop was hearing and deliberating on the interface between the YMCA and the Community Aquatic Center.

The first speaker, based on the order that names were submitted, was Mike Grey, who stated that "we don't need a YMCA in Rockport" to take over the pool and that "pools are not built to make a profit." Mayor Wax responded to Grey's comments to correct several statements by clarifying that "the city can't give the pool to anyone" and indicated that the intention is for the city "to enhance programs and opportunities...through an agreement with the YMCA." Wax referred to a survey conducted by the city to show the need for a YMCA, saying that the YMCA's programs would be responding to that survey. The programs ultimately provided would be responsive to the citizens of Rockport and Aransas County. Wax continued to explain that the property to be used to build a building for the YMCA is property already owned by the city and is adjacent to the schools. Wax hypothesized that misunderstandings could come from the idea that "folks with a Y membership could be able to use the pool." The pool would continue to be owned by the city (and Fulton and Aransas County) but the Y could use it for their programs.

Mayor Wax explains how the Y would work

Rebecca Johnson
Mayor Wax read a comment from Jennie Grey asking that the YMCA "find your own land" and develop it so that the YMCA would be separate from the pool. Eric Heller, chair of the city's YMCA Development Committee, responded that the "Y is not here to take over the pool." They want to enhance programs by offering cooking classes, swimming lessons, and things for kids to do. Heller mentioned that the Town of Fulton and Aransas County have pulled away from funding the Community Pool and that he "doesn't want [his] property taxes to go up to cover a $100,000 deficit" at the pool.

Eric Heller, Chair of the YMCA Development Committee

Dianna Coleman commented that the $100,000 is not a "deficit." Rather it is part of the cost of running the service. She further asked how much it costs the city to run other parks that are also an asset to the city. Coleman noted that there is nothing in writing to state that "we can use the pool without joining the Y." Wax interjected that there is "nothing in writing because there is no management agreement" in place. He indicated that access to the pool "will be determined by management of the Aquatic Center."

In describing how joint use might work, Wax hypothesized that there could be a door to the Y. When a person entered if they were wearing a green wrist band they would go to all Y programs, but if they were wearing a different colored band they would have access to the pool only. Mayor Wax stated that many of the questions being asked were ones "we can't answer" but that the primary consideration in scheduling of the pool would be children. He pointed out that the steps needed to move forward with the YMCA are 1) hire a director 2) fundraising [to build the building] 3) construction of the building 4) management agreement and negotiations.

Lynn Baskind, President, Friends of the Pool
Former YMCA committee member Rebecca Johnson noted that she had spent a year and a half on the committee and had asked the same questions that are being asked today. She noted that things are needed for kids to do and that she understands that the Y would not be "taking over" anything but would run the activities.

Lynn Baskind, President of the Friends of the Pool (FOP), talked about the activities of the FOP and how their work has increased use of the pool over the past several years. Baskind noted that the FOP has footed the whole bill for ACISD students to take swimming lessons at the pool. She reminded City Council that the "pool belongs to everyone in the community." Linda Valdez then read a letter, available in Council packets (http://www.cityofrockport.com/DocumentCenter/View/13186), from Carla Gibson, representing Ceil Frost, the donor of the land on which the pool sits. The letter questions whether use of the pool by the YMCA meets the deed's criteria. The letter concludes by asking that the pool retain autonomy and not be subject to YMCA regulation.

Evalee Von Villas

Evalee Von Villas acknowledged that the City of Rockport has shouldered the the bulk of the costs of operating and maintaining the pool. She asked that ACISD, the Town of Fulton, and Aransas County "step up." Von Villas also questioned whether the YMCA could achieve 800 memberships in Rockport so that the city does not end up with another empty building and a vacant parking lot. Von Villas pointed out that a lot of what was said today [by Mayor Wax] has not been said at YMCA Development Committee meetings. She noted that there have been things said and then retracted and that there have been many inconsistencies in the information provided. Von Villas suggested that the YMCA should have a person attend each meeting.

Rob Wiggins, President and CEO, YMCA of the Coastal Bend

Rob Wiggins, CEO and President of the Corpus Christi YMCA, concluded the meeting by stating that "we are really nice folks, and that "we [the YMCA] didn't come into Rockport. We were asked to come." Money raised here would stay here, he noted. He also mentioned that he is not being paid "to come over here" and is actually volunteering his time for Rockport. In conclusion, Wiggins stated that when a YMCA is in a town, property values go up.

Although she was not signed up to speak, Kathleen Huffmeyer asked to speak. She commented that there were many other buildings in town that could be used as a YMCA. In reference to the old HEB building that Huffmeyer suggested as a possible location, Mayor Wax asked if Huffmeyer could write a check for $2.95 million to buy the building. Huffmeyer asked if the YMCA is buying the land and paying for the building, Wax replied that they were not and then concluded the meeting.

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Jeanette Larson is a retired librarian and author. She and her husband, retired architect and artist Jim Larson, moved to Rockport several years ago for the birds, the beach, and the coastal community.




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