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Give YMCA the money

Randy West

The Harrison County Commissioners have a political hot potato in their laps, if not in their hands, and they can feel the heat like it’s radioactive.
The hot potato is a request by the hard-working proponents of a YMCA for the entire county who have asked the commissioners for a $100,000 contribution from riverboat revenue for the YMCA Founders Campaign. Everything that the YMCA proponents raise up to $300,000 by the end of this month will be matched by the good people at the Harrison County Community Foundation. That means if $300,000 is raised, the Y will soon have $600,000 in earnest money. Some of that will become apart of an endowment to provide annual memberships to the Y for those who can’t afford them.
A YMCA would be a wonderful addition to the county. Almost everyone who has lived in a city has a YMCA story. People learned to swim there, played basketball or dodge-ball there, worked out there, met their spouse on the indoor track, did doctor-prescribed swim therapy in the winter after a broken leg or heart attack, and so on. It’s a great institution, and wonderful for families.
The commissioners know all this. They would probably be the first to sign up for an annual membership, even though some constituents are telling them that it’s a rich person’s club. That’s baloney. The YMCA is not a country club. The problem is that the commissioners don’t like to hand out big sums of money to private organizations. If they do, the requests will never stop, and they’ll never get smaller. And the commissioners are now looking at some huge capital expenditures that are going to take a lot of bucks: courthouse renovation or additions, moving the annex out of the Little Indian Creek floodplain, building an animal shelter, and so on.
Firefighters are also wanting a $500,000 truck for the county, water companies want money for water towers and fire hydrants — the list goes on and on.
But the YMCA also has huge support. If you look at the list of people who have contributed to the Y’s Founders Campaign, published in this newspaper, it’s awesome, and getting bigger all the time. They’re not just a bunch of yuppie move-ins. A lot of these people have lived here for years. The people and organizations in this list have clout, they all vote, and, in our opinion, they have the wherewithal to support a vital YMCA facility through the years. It will be a very attractive asset for the entire county, and the county’s not going to get smaller. It will bring people together in a positive, healthy environment. So, while Caesars continues to gush millions of dollars into county accounts — would you believe Caesars has contributed almost $44 million to Harrison County since January 1999? — the commissioners have to listen to the YMCA request. At this point, $100,000 seems almost small.
We suggest that the commissioners, who have the money right now in one of several accounts, grant the $100,000 request at this crucial time, and then make it abundantly clear that it’s for one time only. The Y people will not be able to come back next year or the year after with another request, as other organizations are beginning to do. This one-time windfall will give the Y a big boost when it needs it, but if the Y people really want the facility they dream of, they’re going to have to raise the $3 or $4 million needed to build it. It can be done, over time, and we’re sure it will be built. In the movie “Field of Dreams,” Kevin Costner said … well, never mind.
Once the Y request has been taken care of, the commissioners need to get down to work and build the animal shelter.