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Monday, December 26, 2016

Eric Bernsee, Editor
Positive signs continue to emerge for the possibility of establishing a YMCA community center in Greencastle.

The latest came during back-to-back meetings by the Greencastle Redevelopment Commission (RDC) and the Greencastle City Council as both bodies heard a presentation Wednesday evening by Loren Matthes of H. J. Umbaugh & Associates, Indianapolis, who did a preliminary analysis of the financing capabilities for such a project.

“The take-away tonight,” Matthes said, “is that you have the ability to finance $14.5 million if you wanted to.”

“That’s more than we anticipated, for sure,” City Attorney Laurie Hardwick said as the Redevelopment Commission pondered the numbers.

While no one is suggesting the project go to that extent, the maximum $14.5 million figure is a good sign for hopes of financing what has been talked about as a “close to $10 million project.”

Matthes’ report indicated the project is feasible and there are options to consider with interest rates on the bonds predicted as low as 2.38 percent in one model at 5 percent in another.

“The main point,” she told the City Council, “is just to show you that you have a healthy TIF (tax increment financing district) and we can market that (size) bond without any problem.”

While no location has been selected for such a facility and a full go-ahead on the project still has yet to be given, positive signs do persist.

Councilman Mark Hammer, a CPA by trade and the longest-serving member of the Council, seemed pleased with the report.

“It’s very nice to see some solid numbers and know that this can work,” he said.

“This is just kind of the first step,” Mayor Bill Dory said, explaining that the next step is to finalize architect selection between two finalists and “turn them loose.”

He suggested that the RDC talk about the findings at its January meeting (5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan 25 at City Hall) “and set what the range is.”

“Are we thinking that Feb. 1, the architect could be doing something,” RDC member and City Councilman Gary Lemon asked.

Both Hardwick and Dory quickly answered “yes.”

At least three sites are still being looked at for the possible community center location, the mayor said, although he stopped short of disclosing them during the City Council public meeting.

“Big Walnut Sports Park is one,” he said, adding that he would rather not talk about the others at a public meeting “because we don’t control those properties.”

However, at a special session last spring, it was reported that three sites had been explored — Big Walnut Sport Park, the old Jones School property on the west side of Greencastle and a location “generally on the East Side,” Dory said at the time.

Beyond site selection, the project would likely require 6-9 months of design and bidding, followed by 12-14 months of construction.

That could mean the “start of 2019 for occupancy,” Dory said, noting that the city still must finalize a formal agreement with the Wabash Valley YMCA.

Although no official action has been taken by the City of Greencastle or the YMCA Board of Directors — other than a memorandum of understanding — the proposal continues to be for a facility built by the city and staffed and operated by the YMCA.

Size of the facility has been suggested as 30,000 to 35,000 square feet with room left for future growth and adequate parking.

Construction cost figures — estimated at $200 per square foot — on such a facility have been estimated at $8-$10 million.

Individual memberships could cost as little as $30-35 a month with family memberships as low as $60 a month, YMCA officials have said. Approximately 1,000 memberships will be needed to make the project successful.

Meanwhile, the possible involvement of Putnam County Hospital (PCH) could “increase the footprint of the building and expand the project,” Mayor Dory said.

The desire of PCH to be a key partner in development of the YMCA is driven by many factors, CEO Dennis Weatherford has previously explained for the Banner Graphic.

“Our goal, along with the City of Greencastle and the Wabash Valley YMCA, is to provide high-quality, affordable services to the community to promote a healthier Putnam County,” he said.

“Doing this will fulfill the hospital’s strategic goal of managing population health in Putnam County,” the PCH administrator added, citing urgent care and occupational health as examples of service lines that would benefit the community in a space such as the YMCA.

Neither the City Council nor the RDC took any formal action on the Umbaugh presentation.