YMCA center plans on hold

Oct 23, 2013

The effort to build a new YMCA/event center in Greenville is on hold, after the proposal’s biggest backer withdrew his support of the project Tuesday.

Dr. Jerry Ransom, the chairman of the committee who had sought to place the $15 million bond proposition on this past May’s election ballot, formally announced Tuesday afternoon he was withdrawing his $1 million pledge toward the project.

In a letter presented to the Greenville City Council prior to the start of Tuesday’s regular session, Ransom said there were still too many unanswered questions surrounding the project for the city to proceed.

The council was scheduled to receive a report during the meeting from City Manager Massoud Ebrahim on the status of submissions of statements of qualifications from architectural and engineering firms interested in the project, in order for the council to decide whether to allow Ebrahim to proceed with reviewing each of the company’s qualifications.

In the letter, Ransom said that without a formal understanding of the complete partnership of all of the agencies which had committed their support to the proposal, it was too soon to move forward on building plans.

“Requesting and reviewing architectural services at this point is a ridiculous waste of time and money,” Ransom said. “It is equivalent to ‘Cut then measure!’ or ‘Shoot and then aim!’. For this large investment in our community, the Citizens of Greenville deserve more.”

Ransom went on to say he would not have recommended the YMCA bond referendum, based on what he had learned since it passed in May.

“For these reasons, I recommend that the vote be invalidated and all future efforts cease,” Ransom said.

The council did not go so far as to call a halt to the process, but did express a desire to wait before taking any additional action.

“I’d like to see us take a step back and assess what’s going on,” said Mayor Steve Reid.

Council member James Evans also asked for the project to be placed on hold, although he fully supported the idea of a new YMCA and the individuals who came up with the proposal.

“I question the planning, out of the care for the people who did the planning,” Evans said, recommending the organizers consider recruiting Dr. James Ammons to help oversee the efforts.

“He knows about finance, he knows about building,” Evans said. “Jack works out the details.”

Council member Jeff Dailey said he also supported the idea of a new YMCA, but was concerned over the potential cost to the city with the withdrawal of Ransom’s support.

“That’s $1 million that is being pulled back,” Dailey said. “That’s $100,000 (per year) that will have to be made up by the taxpayers.”

And Dailey said he realized a majority of the voters were in favor of the project.

“I’m also mindful of the taxpayers,” Dailey said. “I can’t look them in the eye and tell them what impact it is going to have.”

Council member Dan Perkins said he would be in favor of proceeding with the review of the architectural and engineering firms.

“I believe we need to move forward with it,” Perkins said, noting the voters indicated they wanted the facility. “This sounds like we’re saying we’re killing it.”

“I think they also would hold us responsible if we couldn’t afford it,” Reid replied.