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MJ YMCA plans could be tabled
Oct 12, 2006 12:00 am
MT. JULIET — A resolution placed on tonight's city commission agenda – penned to put the brakes on the city's current process toward a recreation center – has outraged Mayor Linda Elam who declared the move "disrespectful" and an "attempt to kill the project with no one watching."
Two city squires contend the Mayor's committee tasked to work toward a program and master plan for a potential recreation and aquatics center failed to "deliver the product" – a site selection and plan – by Sept. as promised and they want to "nip the current project plans" in the bud, save tax payers' money and approach it in a different way.
Elam said she was shocked when she learned about tonight's resolution co-sponsored by District 3 Commissioner Ed Hagerty and District 4 Commissioner Jim Bradshaw. The resolution directs the commission to authorize city manager Rob Shearer to terminate the agreement between the city of Mt. Juliet and an engineering firm hired to prepare a program and master plan for a 60,000 square foot recreational facility. Earlier, the city approved to pay Fowlkes and Associates $19,000 for their services toward this end and has already paid the firm about $9,500.
"Fowlkes and Associates was hired by the city to design the proposed recreation and aquatics center," Elam said Friday. "They voted in favor of it, and a committee has been working on this project for over a year. Now, without warning and in the dead of night, there's a resolution on the table to terminated the contract with the architect."
The mayor said the firm cannot officially draw plans for the project until land is found. She said many hours have been spent looking for a site for the proposed center, but no firm contract is at hand.
"You can't design a center until you know the lay of the land," Elam said. "The point is we've already spent $9,500 and as soon as we find the land we'll move ahead. If we cancel this now, we'll have to start from scratch. There's no justification for termination of the contract. It's very hard to find a suitable site."
The mayor said the committee has targeted some land for the project.
"We've pinpointed several parcels we believe are suitable and unique for the project," she stated. "We have someone approaching the owners on behalf of the committee but we don't have a a contract. It takes time."
Bradshaw was the lone vote against appropriating funds to pay an architect to come up with a master plan. Earlier this year, the city commission approved a proposal whereby the city would enter into a management contract with the YMCA to operate a facility in Mt. Juliet and the city would construct it. Construction costs would come by way of an approximate $15 million bond issue, according to Hagerty.
"We were told we would have a master plan by September, and we don't," Hagerty said. "I think it's time we cut our losses and move forward. At this time, I don't think there is commission support for a $15 million bond issue, and I think we just need to put it to a vote and see if there is. I think we are wasting time, and I'm sorry for the YMCA people."
Hagerty noted the "normal" path in bringing a YMCA to a city is for that organization to build a storefront and begin to raise money.
"I'm not against a YMCA here," he said. "I think we've lost a year talking about it, and we have nothing to show for it, and we've also lost a year of fund raising."
Bradshaw said he will never vote for such a hefty bond issue to pay for construction of the facility. The $40,000 study the YMCA headed showed 9 percent of residents would use the facility, according to Bradshaw.
"And 91 percent of residents would have to pay for it," he said. "From recent table discussions with commissioners I don't see a majority vote for this project in the end. Let's save another $9,000. I'm not against the YMCA, I'm against this way of paying for it. Let's take a vote and send a message about which way our city will fund a private entity project or not."
Elam stated no one bothered to contact her about these concerns.
"No one has called me," she said. "No one has attended our meetings. I think this is disrespectful to the YMCA, the committee and to the citizens. The committee has spent a lot of time researching this project and visiting other sites and we've already paid out on the contract."
The shocked mayor stated the proposed approach to bringing a YMCA to Mt. Juliet came out of research.
"It was what made sense for this city," she said. "But it's not the only way. How come we aren't asked to present four or five alternatives?"
Elam also pointed out the resolution was put on the agenda last Tuesday, which was past the official deadline.
Mt. Juliet city commission will meet at 7 p.m. tonight at City Hall.