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Saugeen Shores YMCA

Hub Staff

After a lengthy discussion, Saugeen Shores Council approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the YMCA for Town Staff to proceed with the first step toward a new recreation facility in Saugeen Shores, beginning with a Request for Proposal (RFP) to hire a consultant to conduct a feasibility study on the partnership.

During the Committee of Whole May 28, the vote for the MOU was not unanimous with Saugeen Shores Councillor Neil Menage voting against. Before the vote took place, Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau brought forth an amendment to the recommendation that the feasibility study be completed before the MOU was approved which was seconded by Dave Myette, but was ultimately voted against.

Prior to a joint presentation by YMCA Owen Sound CEO Gayle Graham and Director of Community Services Jayne Jagelewski, two local business owners Frank Vanderzwet of Fitness Corner and Fitness Corner South and Ann MacKay of Lakeshore Recreation took advantage of the Open Forum to air their grievances with a new fitness facility that would accompany a YMCA partnership.

Vanderzwet said that he strongly supports a new pool in Saugeen Shores but is strongly opposed to a YMCA setting up a fitness centre. With the YMCA helping to cover costs and more users using the YMCA facility the cost becomes revenue neutral.

“Between Fitness Corner in Port Elgin, Fitness Corner in South, Lakeshore Recreation, Fitness Funatics, EAG Crossfit, Elle Shape, Metta Wave, Topp Performance, we have plenty of facilities all vying for the fitness environment,” he said, adding that the concern is not with fair competition. “However, this town should not be using tax payer dollars to build and own a facility that would be in direct competition for independent tax paying businesses,” said Vanderzwet.

He went onto highlight that after wages the two largest expenses most businesses have are interest payments for the capital funding and property taxes. “If we go ahead with this, you're actually asking our businesses to fund that, to fund our competition,” Vanderzwet said.

Ann MacKay, owner of Lakeshore Recreation which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, seconded the need for a new pool facility and said the seven fitness facilities in Saugeen Shores work well in supplying various markets. “With the town looking at going into business to compete against its own business, it’s wrong. I don’t believe anyone wins in this case,” she said.

During the presentation to Council, Jagelewski said when Council directed Town staff to find a partnership, the YMCA was the only one sought as it was a natural choice, was accessible to a rural Ontario community and has a proven track record. “It highlights an accessible environment, can have a needed indoor meeting space and is financially viable, reducing the dependence on tax support from the residents of the municipality,” said Jagelewski, who then noted the concerns brought forth and called it a “healthy conversation” that will be addressed.

“Competition certainly brings, for new facilities, increased interest in health and fitness,” she said, adding the YMCA in Owen Sound co-exists with other fitness facilities. “The Y provides different programs than other clubs can do,” said Jagelewski, noting that the Y caters to a family unit and encourages families to participate together.

“Not everyone wishes to exercise in a facility that is open and accessible to all ages and some prefer the type of facility that can accommodate only an adult setting,” she said.

Owen Sound YMCA CEO Gayle Graham echoed that a new fitness location renews the awareness of physical fitness. “What we do find is people go out and they investigate. They go out and look at different facilities, not only the new one that’s opening, but also the existing facilities,“ she said, then highlighted the YMCA family feel. “People have different needs and I do believe that there is room to co-exist with current fitness locations in the community.”

The Owen Sound YMCA has a current membership of 5,300 financially assists 700 of those members. Currently there are 30 people from Saugeen Shores who have memberships at the Owen Sound facility. On June 24 the YMCA Owen Sound, located at 700 10th Street East, will open its doors to Saugeen Shores residents for free to get a better understanding of what they offer.

The Director of Community Services informed Council that a feasibility study would determine what’s built and how many people would need to join for it to be sustainable. “This is essentially to determine if Saugeen Shores can financially sustain the operation of the facility,” said Jagelewski, adding that the feasibility study would cost $40,000, which will come from prior reserved capital. “If approved it would be followed with a fundraising feasibility study,” she said.

When the topic opened for discussion, every Council member engaged in the conversation.

Councillor Dave Myette noted that before the YMCA was approached Council and Staff preferred a pool and walking track only and mentioned how SSRAPNow group didn't necessarily say they wanted a new fitness facility. Myette noted his understanding that an MOU is not a binding contract and that he would support it but will continue to have reservations about the partnership.

Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau showed concern about the unknown and going into a deal before a feasibility study is completed. “We don’t know what building the YMCA needs to satisfy its operating model,” said Charbonneau. “So we don't know what its operating cost would be.”

Councillor Neil Menage said we’ve fallen in love with the Cadillac version. “Maybe there are other versions out there, why stop at this one.”

“We can fund that all ourselves and build it... that’s what Orillia is doing,” said Menage, citing new housing developments bringing in new taxes and had the idea of building a trailer park expansion and using some of that money toward recreational complexes. “I cannot support going forward anymore with a MOU,” he said.

Town CAO David Smith told Menage the Town doesn’t have enough borrowing capacity to do these projects alone and that a partnership is needed. “Partnerships better our chances at receiving grant opportunities,” said Smith.

Vice-Deputy Mayor Diane Huber reminisced about how a partnership with the YMCA was brought up a long time ago to Council and believes that if the Town had initiated something then, “we would be a little bit further along perhaps now.” Huber said that she believes going forward with an MOU and feasibility study allows a “much greater chance on giving us an accurate picture if the Y is somehow involved.“

Following the approval of the MOU, Ann MacKay and Frank Vanderszwet said they felt disappointed at the lack of options.

“We have not been encouraged to have any input, nobody from the Town has approached us for partnerships or for anything so I really don’t know where the Town is going,” said Mackay.

frank vanderzwet

Fitness Corner and Fitness Corner South owner Frank Vanderzwet during the May 28 Open Forum in Council Chambers.

ann mackay

Lakeshore Recreation owner Ann MacKay during the May 28 Open Forum in Council Chambers.

gayle graham

YMCA CEO Gayle Graham with Saugeen Shores Director of Community Services Jayne Jagelewski.

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