Roving Reporter | "YMCA Conversation Continues" | Article and Photos by Jeanette Larson

During the monthly meeting of the Rockport YMCA Development Committee, it was mentioned several times that the agenda items are part of a continuing conversation. Nothing is set in stone until the City of Rockport enters into contract negotiations with the YMCA of the Coastal Bend. The Committee mentioned that they are asking for some of the conversation to be formalized, as preliminary items, before contract negotiations begin as that may not occur for several years and citizens are concerned that their ideas will be lost. The agenda for the July 5, 2017 meeting including a number of topics that Rockport citizens have questions and concerns about.

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YMCA Development Committee

Pledge forms are distributed to the audience
The only citizen to speak during the Citizens to be heard portion of the agenda was 17-year-old Ashley Trube. Trube commented on the perceived lack of programs and activities for kids in Rockport. She noted that a number of available programs appear to have been overlooked by Y planner. There are six fitness centers in the area, as well as the community pool and skate park, Odyssey After School programs, and athletics through the school district, stated Trube. These dispel the theory [held by planners] that kids in Rockport have nothing to do, she said. Further Trube asked "what will the Y offer that we don't already have." She agreed that the Y "has a positive impact in communities they enter" but doesn't believe that Rockport needs a Y yet. Per open meetings rules, the committee could not respond to or take action on any item that is not posted on the agenda so Trube's comments will be taken into consideration at a future meeting.

Ashley Trube 

Members Joshua Jones (l) and Rosemary Vieux (r)
The committee approved a motion to begin a pledge campaign. This campaign asks for up to 500 citizens to pledge $200 for the purpose of hiring an executive director. Funds will only be collected once the campaign is complete to "avoid any sense of impropriety like [there was] before" when the YMCA was in Rockport many years ago. The funds would be used to hire a director, who will office in the City, to write grants, raise funds, and begin providing some preliminary programming for the YMCA. The funds would cover two years of salary and benefits. The City would provide office space, telephone, and Internet. Chairman Eric Heller mentioned that they already have had inquiries from several people with the appropriate credentials who are interested in the director position. The director would be hired by the city. Copies of the pledge form were distributed to the audience and Heller noted that they have one corporate pledge for $10,000 already lined up.

Phil Gandy asks a question
Several agenda items were tabled because the speakers on the topics were not in attendance or needed information was not available. Questions were raised as to whether alternative sites had been considered. Frequently mentioned were the old HEB building downtown and the old ACE Hardware store on Traylor and Business 35. Councilman Pat Rios stated that the bond money passed in 2007 for a recreation center can not be used to lease property and the building that housed ACE Hardware is not for sale. Heller shared that the old HEB had a contract over a year ago at $2.9 million but the deal fell through when it was learned that the roof would take at least $500,000 to repair. It is not economically feasible for the City to purchase the building for a recreation center.

Removal of the oak trees was then discussed.  It was cited by Heller as a "hot topic" but the audience was assured that the project would be treated "like any other developer" and the city's tree committee would work to develop a mitigation plan so that only  the trees that are necessary for the building are removed. Audience member Phil Gandy asked about using one of the other locations that the city owns where not as many trees are present. Heller responded that the location was selected for the convenience of having the pool close by. Rios added that the proximity to the schools was the key factor when discussions about a YMCA began.

Bonnie Bullis, Evalee Von Villas, Dianna Coleman, Michael Coleman (l to r)
Most of the audience was in attendance to "deliberate on 'swim only' options for pool use." Bonnie Bullis asked about daily use fees. Another woman in the audience asked that the YMCA come to a meeting and tell "what they will do in Rockport" as far as programs and classes. Heller replied that every YMCA has a slightly different identity to match the community being served. "We know what the Y offers elsewhere. We have the ability to bring in what we want." Bullis asked if there were any concerns about competing with the six other fitness centers and gyms in the area. Bullis expressed concern for senior citizens who only want to use the pool and are paying a very reasonable amount for the Community Aquatic Center and classes.  "The Y will be for everyone and there will always be competing businesses," responded Heller. Heller also noted that many senior citizens may be able to use the pool and YMCA free under the Silver Sneakers program provided in some health insurance policies.

In general discussion Heller noted that the size of the facility in Rockport will be smaller than what is shown in the early preliminary schematic. Originally plans were developed for a 28,000 square foot facility but that will be reduced to between 20,000 and 22,000 square feet when the plans are finalized. He cautioned people against using the drawings "we have all seen" as they don't show the trees as they will actually remain or the appropriate number of parking spaces.  Evalee Von Villas asked that the city consider conducting a referendum on having the YMCA as Rockport's community center, expressing concern that while people want these programs, they may not be willing to pay for them. Heller agreed to put this topic on the next agenda.

The last item for discussion was whether there is a need for 501(c)(3) tax status for the Rockport YMCA. The committee's consensus opinion was that this is not needed. Funds raised for the executive director can be channeled through the City of Rockport, and the YMCA of the Coastal Bend is already a 501(c)(3) and can serve in that capacity for this group. The next meeting is scheduled for August 2, 2017.

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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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