Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rader and Gannon spell out concerns about greenspace dollars being allocated to South DeKalb YMCA purchase

Commissioners Rader and Gannon have written a letter to the Metro Atlanta YMCA and the DeKalb County community explaining their reservations about using greenspace funds to enter an agreement with the YMCA. If, after reviewing the facts, you wish to contact our DeKalb Commissioners, you can find their contact information here.

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Dear YMCA Board Members and our DeKalb Community:

We appreciate all of the work across metropolitan Atlanta that YMCA’s do every day. Whether it is helping their members stay healthy and fit through exercise and recreation programs, or providing early enrichment to Head Starters or the numerous other ways that the Y helps build community – the service of the YMCA staff, volunteers and Board of Directors is of the finest American tradition.

As members of the DeKalb County Board of Commission we believe Partnerships which leverage complementary capabilities are a valuable tool and in the potential relationship with the South DeKalb YMCA, we hope to find one that is transparent, respects the taxpayers and serves the needs of the broadest group of citizens.  

With this in mind, we have reservations about the proposed Master Agreement between DeKalb and the Metro Y that would use County Green Space Acquisition Bond Revenues to purchase your South DeKalb Y facility and lease it back to you at a nominal price.  

Please consider these FACTS:
•    This Partnership agreement is exclusively negotiated with the YMCA, and nothing similar has been offered to any other non-profit, private organization or governmental partner. No terms or parameters for negotiation were authorized by the DeKalb Governing Authority, and the proposed Master Agreement was only made public when it was placed on the Commission Agenda on April 8th.  Neither the Green Space Bond Advisory Board nor the Development Authority of DeKalb County have had any input to the Master Agreement.
•    The Y brings no new money to the table.  The County has successful models for staffing facilities, and is experimenting with other partnership models. For example the Boys and Girls Club will manage the after-school program at the Redan Recreation center next fall, each entity receiving a benefit.  We should treat partners comparably, and negotiate openly.
•    The South DeKalb YMCA is in an area where significant County investments in recreation and senior services have already been made: the Y is 2.5 miles from Exchange Park Multi-Generational Recreation Center ($7.2million); 2.8 miles from Browns Mill Recreation and Aquatic Facility ($8.9 million); 4.1 miles from Lou Walker Senior Center with a heated indoor pool; 5.7 miles from Candler Road Senior Center, which will have exercise equipment when it opens this summer; 8 miles from Redan Park Recreation Center ($5.4 million); and 8.7 miles from Wade Walker Park and YMCA ($13.6 million).  In 8 square miles of this South DeKalb community, the County has already invested over $35 million in recent and ongoing Parks Bond developmental funds and additional county and federal grant dollars for the senior centers.  Investing in this location is not a good return on the citizens’ tax dollars.  It will duplicate services in this area while many areas of the county still do not have access to any recreation center. DeKalb County taxpayers will continue to pay for the operations of Browns Mill, Exchange, and Redan Centers. No current public expense will be reduced.
•    The Master Agreement provides no benchmarks or guarantees related to the health deficiencies the investment is purported to address.  Indeed, the question may be fairly asked:  why, after 40 years’ service to the community has the Y had so little effect on these deficiencies?  Why will a renovation have a transformative effect?
•    DeKalb County will purchase the existing YMCA for $5 million, using $1 million of District 3 and 7 Parks Bond Land Acquisition Funding and $4 million in County Wide Acquisition Funding.  The agreement diverts land acquisition funding to development, contrary to the Bond Referendum.   The property is appraised at $2.5 million for tax purposes, with the land appraised at $400,000.  The Appraisal provided by the YMCA estimates the value at only $3.9 million.  All appraisals supporting this proposed transaction are made using the “cost” method, which is inappropriate, given the multiplicity of similar facilities in the service area.
•    After the purchase, the County will transfer the property to the Development Authority of DeKalb County (DADC), who will lease the property back to the YMCA for $1 per year for 50 years. At the end of the lease, the property reverts to DeKalb County. The Return on Investment to the taxpayers footing this bill is $50.  The Y will book the lease as an asset, similar to the Wade Walker Y, whose lease is currently valued by the Y at over $10 million.
•    The YMCA will renovate the building to its own plan, and continue to operate the facility as a YMCA, charging a fee schedule of its own choosing, except that special benefits exclusively for residents of three surrounding zip codes, not all taxpayers, shall be provided. 
•    Appraisal documentation indicates that the SD YMCA operates with a $300,000 + annual surplus and there is no requirement to use surpluses to the benefit of DeKalb County taxpayers.  The Wade Walker Y should generate a surplus as well, yet there is no provision in either Master Agreement to account for such surpluses.
•    The YMCA has other options for renovating this facility without using taxpayer funds. Typically YMCA renovations are completed with private capital campaign contributions through the umbrella Metro Atlanta YMCA organization and through fundraising within the service area being served by the facility.  
•    The county does not have the funds to renovate the much needed repairs and upgrades at the Tucker Recreation Center, the Lithonia Recreation Center, the need for a real Recreation Center at Mason Mill and the long overdue replacement of a Tobie Grant Recreation Center in Scottdale.  There is no Parks and Recreation Plan Update that assesses the need for another recreational facility in this area whereas there is assessed need for a new Center in Southwest DeKalb County.

Where is the partnership in this proposed agreement? There is a no win for the citizens of DeKalb County, only for the YMCA.  It is clearly the wrong thing to do and should go back to the drawing board.

Please withdraw from this proposal and let us participate in a transparent process that assesses the needs of both partners to the “partnership.”

Commissioner Kathie Gannon, Super District 6
Commissioner Jeff Rader, District 2
June 23, 2014