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On Y donation, commissioners are leaning — but which way?

After questioning YMCA proponents at length during Monday’s meeting, the Harrison County Commissioners said they expect to make a decision at their next session on the group’s request for $100,000.
“We’re leaning; we’re just not sure in which direction,” Commissioner James Goldman said, partially tongue-in-cheek in response to a reporter’s question.
(If approved, the request would go to the Harrison County Council, which has the ultimate control over county spending.)
The YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) is seeking $100,000 as part of its $300,000 Founders Campaign, which will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Harrison County Community Foundation by the end of this month. The money from the Foundation would be used to establish an endowment to generate operating funds. The YMCA’s request for $100,000 was made at the commissioners’ June 18 meeting.
Corydon attorney John Evans told the commissioners Monday the Founders Campaign, which began seven weeks ago, has now raised $160,000 from 450 individuals, families and businesses. Two weeks ago, the amount was $114,000.
The YMCA has taken its appeal to towns outside Corydon, because the non-profit agency would be open to everyone throughout the county. Corydon has been chosen as the possible site of a facility only because it’s centrally located.
“At its core, the YMCA strives to improve the quality of life for everyone,” said Evans, a member of the YMCA’s all-volunteer board. “We would like everyone to know that county government supports this type of grassroots movement.”
Commission chair Terry L. Miller questioned the Y’s process for providing membership to individuals or families who cannot afford the monthly fee (slightly less than $40) or for special programs requiring a separate fee, such as swim lessons.
Catherine Turcotte, the president of the Y board, said confidential applications for assistance would be known only to the Y director, who in turn would report to the board how many people were helped each month.
Miller told the Y audience that many people in Harrison County are “proud” and might feel badly about applying for help in the first place.
Shirley Hawkins, director of Harrison County Community Services, said her agency would work with the Y to develop a referral system. “We would work together so a lot of people wouldn’t have to jump through so many hoops,” Hawkins said.
Comments from constituents to the commissioners have run the gamut, from people who think the Y would be a “playground for the rich,” to others who think the proposal is nothing more than a “blue sky idea” with no firm foundation, they said.
“I don’t believe that would be the case, myself,” said Commissioner J.R. Eckart, referring to the latter, “but that’s the perspective I’m getting from a lot of people.”
Eckart, a former member of a Y, asked the proponents to gather data from other YMCAs detailing actual costs and benefits. “There has been a lot of emotion in your presentation,” he said. “I’m trying to find the way to get beyond the emotional part of this … get me the facts and figures.
“More in-depth information about the Y would greatly help me,” Eckart said.
Goldman, too, has been struggling.
“So far this has been gut-wrenching for me,” he said, adding that he has tried to weigh the Y’s request in light of other programs county government provides, such as parks. “All of those things come into play,” he said.
“How are we going to justify spending this money for a Y and not the county parks or youth center?” he asked. “I’m sure $100,000 would be welcomed by them.”
Steve Gilliland, director of the Harrison County Community Foundation, also spoke on behalf of the Y and his board’s willingness to commit to the project.
“I, too, have heard from some of the naysayers,” Gilliland said, “the phobia that here’s another thing they’re getting in Corydon, but it needs to be located near the center of the population.”
Gilliland also addressed another issue: whether the proponents are successfully educating the community about the project.
“I think we have had tremendous coverage in the press,” he said.
“No one is going to be turned away from the YMCA … it is not the intent of the YMCA to get rich.”
But the Y does serve as an enticement for economic development, Gilliland said.
“More important than the money is for county government to show support for the organization,” Gilliland said, adding that giving less than the total $100,000 requested would still show support.
“Fifty thousand or even $25,000 will send the message that county government is behind this project. I strongly encourage support and financial backing from county government.”

Evans told the commissioners the group will return with the requested data.

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