out of rec deal
By Jeff Gallatin
Published May 28, 2008
Thomas O’Grady is shuffling the lineup for his administration’s
proposed new $18 million recreation center as he attempts to get
an issue on the ballot for November.
O’Grady said last week that the YMCA will no longer
be participating in the facility but that he still plans to put
a proposal for a one-eighth of a percent income tax to fund building
and operating it. It tentatively would now run for 30 years instead
of 20 or 25 as originally considered.
Instead of having the YMCA run the center, the city
will be the primary group operating the facility, O’Grady said.
The city will remain open to having other organizations involved
such as Fairview Hospital/Cleveland Clinic, who city officials also
wanted in the original plan. He reiterated comments that the North
Olmsted School District would also be welcome to participate.
In explaining the move, O’Grady said his administration
felt that having the YMCA running the facility would not be a workable
plan any longer.
“We listened to the input from the public and decided
that it would be best for the YMCA not to be involved,” he said.
“So, we spoke them and told them that we thought it best if we proceeded
without them. We’re still talking with and would like to work with
Fairview Hospital and the Clinic. We also welcome participation
by the North Olmsted School District in the process.”
O’Grady said he did take into account the City Council
Parks, Recreation and Facilities committee’s two public meetings
where several hundred people attended. At both meetings, the vast
majority of people spoke against the proposal. Some of the speakers
objected to the proposed new center no longer having an ice rink.
Others questioned whether the YMCA would be able to handle its financial
end of the proposal, since it was slated to put $5 million into
the facility. Other concerns about whether city residents would
be able to utilize or afford YMCA programs was also expressed.
O’Grady said the city still plans to focus on wellness,
fitness and other programs in lieu of a new rink and indicated the
longer length of the proposed income tax would handle additional
financing. He said the city is not planning to try and do away with
the 2 percent tax credit for citizens who work outside the city
as part of this or any other proposal.
“We’re still committed to having a first-rate facility
for the citizens of North Olmsted,” O’Grady said. “We will do a
study of rates and programs at other facilities like this to come
up with the best possible facility. Those types of things cost a
lot of money, so we’re not going to move ahead with a lot of that
until we get voter approval to do so. We’re going with an income
tax so senior citizens and others are not impacted by another property
O’Grady said he still plans to try and get the issue
on the ballot in November, meaning it will have to be to the Cuyahoga
County Board of elections by August.
“We will have a proposal before City Council in early
June, meaning they can have two readings at regular meetings and
a special meeting at the end of the month before council’s July
recess,” he said.
Planning Director Kim Wenger, who has been working
on the recreation master plan, said good recreation facilities are
an integral part of a community.
“Quality parks and recreation facilities are assets
which positively contribute to quality of life in a community,”
Wenger said. “Recreation can also be a catalyst for economic development
and encourage community engagement and interaction. Because parks
and recreation serves such a vital function, it’s important to proactively
plan for their maintenance and improvement over time.”
O’Grady said the parting of ways with the YMCA is
Rick Haase, marketing manager for the Greater Cleveland
YMCA, said the YMCA will remain supportive of the city’s goals.
“We want to wish the city well as it moves ahead,”
Haase said. “The YMCA has more than 100 working partnerships around
the area. We will remain good neighbors to our communities.”
Haase said he couldn’t say at this point if the YMCA
would still try and find another facility in North Olmsted, saying
other officials would be making that decision.
North Olmsted officials had varying reactions.
“I have to give the mayor credit for thinking outside
of the box with the plan to partner with the YMCA,” said Mike Raig,
president of the North Olmsted School Board. “At this point in time,
the school board did not have enough information to form a credible
opinion about the recreation plan and its impact to the district’s
students and programs.
“The schools are committed to working closely with
the city on a recreation plan. We believe that continued city and
school cooperation would be productive for both the city and the
schools. We practically serve the same constituents and I believe
they expect no less from us.”
School Board member and City Planning and Design Commission
Chairman John Lasko, who had raised questions about the initial
proposal, said he was pleased by part of the proposal.
“It’s great that the school’s input and participation
is being sought out actively as part of the process,” Lasko said.
“This is going to have a major impact on the residents we both serve.
Now the mayor has to make sure he finds the best way to deliver
the services to residents in the most cost-effective way possible
for the residents and the city.”
City Council Finance Committee Chairman Michael Gareau
Jr. said the next moves for the city are important.
“We need to proceed very carefully at this point,”
said Gareau. “This is something that we want to make sure we’ve
got the right proposal for the city and its residents. We have to
make sure that we provide the voters with sufficient information
to make a proper decision if we are going to place an issue on the
ballot at this time.”
Mark Mahoney, chairman of the Recreation, Parks and
Recreation committee, said his panel will be ready.
“At this point, we await legislation from the administration
pertaining to the proposal,” Mahoney said. “It will be interesting
to see what is presented to us.”
Building, Zoning and Development Chairman Paul Barker
said he was glad the concerns of residents were considered.
“We appreciate that the mayor did hear the residents
and their concerns,” Barker said. “Clearly, we’re going to have
to consider what is presented next carefully.”