Posted on

YMCA, HCH pressure leaders

Representatives of the YMCA of Harrison County came before the county board of commissioners last week to request funding for debt elimination, and the commissioners acted wisely by avoiding action on the matter.
While I can’t blame the YMCA for asking, it’s going to be a tough sell to county leaders, especially coming on the heels of an $8 million grant to Harrison County Hospital for debt reduction.
The Y is a great community asset, and the physical and emotional lift it gives many of its members can be seen as a health boost much like the hospital.
But when comparing the two requests, the service the hospital provides and the amount of people that service reaches far outweigh that of the Y.
The Y’s request, however, pales in comparison to HCH’s, at only $900,000. Plus, the money would totally eliminate debt for the facility, whereas the county’s $8 million allotment to HCH would still leave about $12 million or so of debt.
People have complained that ‘tax’ dollars shouldn’t be used to fund either one of these requests. I agree, and the board of commissioners and county council may feel the same way. That’s why riverboat gaming funds, through the Harrison County Community Foundation’s community fund, are being used for the hospital debt, not money that would affect the county’s tax rate. County officials are always quick to nix any idea that would raise taxes. But, it can be argued that the money could be spent elsewhere within the county’s budget, which would, in turn, potentially ease the public’s burden.
Maybe the YMCA should approach the HCCF in a different manner to seek funding. The Foundation doesn’t approve grants for debt reduction, so the Y should ask for a grant for the maintenance reserve. The lack of a reserve for building maintenance on the six-year-old building was one of the main reasons Y representatives visited the commissioners. It would have a hard time securing $900,000, but a small figure would be a good start. The county might be more willing to approve $50,000 or $100,000 toward the reserve.
People also have said that if the county funds the elimination of debt for the Y, then all residents should receive a membership to the facility. That might be an idea, or at least a reduction in cost.
The county approved the money for the hospital with little opposition. It appears the Y’s request won’t go through so easily, if at all.
If the county does approve the request, how is it going to say no to any other agency wanting to clear its books?