YMCA studies siting center in Jackson

Monday, February 9, 2004

A YMCA executive from St. Charles, Mo., will be in Jackson today and Tuesday to conduct about 30 interviews with community leaders about the feasibility of a YMCA operation in the city.

Bill Ching, a YMCA consultant who has been working with school district and city officials, said the interviews will determine what programs and services are lacking in the community. The interviews will also determine if there is enough interest to start a fund-raising drive.

The city and school have been looking into the possibility of sharing the cost of a community center. The school has plans to upgrade its high school campus, and the thought is that the city and school could both use the facility, which may include a swimming pool and adjacent library.

The city and school district previously hired a consultant to determine whether the community could support a fitness center. The study determined that a facility could generate enough membership fees to cover the operation costs of a facility.

That study, which was done independently of the YMCA, was done on the basis of 500 random telephone interviews, said Jackson schools superintendent Dr. Ron Anderson. "The next part is to sit down and talk to 30 individuals for 45-minute interviews and say, 'OK, here's what it is, what is your reaction and how far do you want to go with this?'"

Ching's aim is to provide and seek information.

"Part of doing this study is to answer a lot of questions people might have and ask questions about their commitment at getting this thing started," he said.

The YMCA would need $300,000 before it would begin any programs. The money would be spent on operations, not facilities, and dollars raised in the community stay in the community, Ching said.

Ching said a YMCA program would likely begin before a facility would be built.

"This doesn't have anything to do with a capital development study," Ching said. "We're just looking to see if an organization such as the YMCA should get started. We'll talk to all kinds of folks, a variety of people and some people who can make things happen."

The feasibility study is the second of a four-step process the YMCA uses to get operations off the ground.

If the interviews turn out favorable, the next step will be organizing a founder's campaign. Then the community will form an organization and find a director.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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