YMCA offers to build, operate four Lexington senior citizens centers

bfortune@herald-leader.comJune 18, 2013 

Lexington Herald-Leader

The YMCA on High street shown here as The YMCA of Central Kentucky is celebrating 150 yrs in Lexington on wednesday APRIL 16 ,2003 in Lexington, Kentucky.

MARK CORNELISON | STAFF

As Lexington plans to build a new senior citizens center, the YMCA of Central Kentucky proposed on Tuesday a partnership in which the YMCA would build and operate four senior center facilities attached to YMCA locations in Fayette County.

David Martorano, president and CEO of YMCA of Central Kentucky, told the Urban County Council's social services and community development committee that the partnership could mean an annual savings of up to $500,000 for the city while tapping into Y programming, which encourages active lifestyles, education and intergenerational relationships.

The proposal comes as the city has moved to construct a single center to replace the one on Nicholasville Road that officials say is outdated and too small. The city hired a consultant last year to come up with site recommendations.

Mayor Jim Gray included $5 million in his budget for site selection and design of a new senior center. The estimated cost has been $15 million.

The YMCA's proposal would involve renovating and possibly expanding the three existing YMCAs in Lexington — Beaumont, High Street and North Lexington — and the construction of a new Y in the Hamburg area.

No planning or design work has begun, but Martorano said the four projects collectively could cost $12 million, about $3 million less than a single center as envisioned by the city.

Martorano talked to Mayor Jim Gray's staff about his idea in May. It will be discussed at the YMCA executive board meeting in the next few weeks. Basic programming such as table tennis, bingo, fitness and ceramics would be free, but seniors could also buy Y memberships and classes.

The Y would oversee and manage construction and would own the facilities, Matorano suggested.

Council member Harry Clarke said he had a problem with the city essentially giving the Y $12 million. "And we would have a stake in it only in programming," he said. Asked by Clarke whether he would be comfortable with the city running the facility, Martorano indicated that would be possible.

Older people would have the chance to volunteer with youth programs and interact with younger people at the Y, Martorano said.

Commissioner of Social Services Beth Mills expressed little enthusiasm for satellite centers. The center on Nicholasville Road is cramped, and its roof leaks, she said, adding that a new center is needed immediately. There's no telling how long it would take to open satellite Y facilities, Mills said.

Council member George Myers said time was of the essence in opening an expanded, modern center. But he did not rule out exploring the possibility of teaming with the Y, perhaps at Beaumont and North Lexington.

Having four locations in Fayette County would make services more accessible, and the plan would combine the expertise of the city's senior services staff with that of the Y to develop "a very forward-thinking" program for older adults in the area, Martoran0 said.

Council member Kevin Stinnett said that of 75 older residents at a recent neighborhood meeting he attended in his district, only three knew the location of the Nicholasville Road senior center.

Council member Shevawn Akers moved that the city proceed with its plan for a central senior citizens center. The motion passed 6-4.

But Stinnett asked, "What is our current plan? Council hasn't heard a word since February, when we heard the consultant's report."

Recommended sites then were the old Kroger store in Beaumont Centre, the former Springs Inn property on Harrodsburg Road and a site across the street at the shuttered Turfland Mall.

Sally Hamilton, the city chief administrative officer, told council that the former Springs Inn site is "no longer in play."

The proposed partnership will be referred to the full council for discussion, probably in July.

Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251. Twitter: @BFortune2010

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