Council to decide Tuesday whether voters should determine YMCA fate


Yelm City Councilors will consider whether or not residents within city limits should decide the fate of whether to build a YMCA branch paid through bonds. 

If council elects to turn the decision to the voters this November, the measure would need a 60% approval rating in order for the new facility to be built.

During a Yelm City Council meeting on July 2, Mayor Joe DePinto said that the YMCA is still interested in bringing a branch to Yelm and building an indoor swimming pool. Earlier this year, the council was presented a model that displayed two swimming pools, including two separate areas for younger and more advanced swimmers. 

“I think we’re on a path where we’ve met with D.A. Davidson, which is our financial advisor on our bonds, and we’re hoping if everything goes right and council is on board, that we’d give the opportunity for the people of Yelm to vote on whether or not they’d want to pay an increase of property tax to fund $10 million to build a YMCA with a swimming pool,” DePinto said during the meeting.

Todd Stancil, Yelm’s city administrator, reiterated that 60% voter approval is needed for the bond measure to pass.

“For the non-voted general obligation debt, we have a capacity of about $22,216,000 and some change,” Stancil said. “In the voter capacity, we have about $38 million that we could send to the voters for approval. Those are the important pieces for this type of bond, [it] would be under one of those two.” 

Stancil added that Yelm’s bond rating is an “AA-” grade, which he said is great “for a city of our size.” He added that the AA- bond rating affects aspects like interest rates.

Stancil said, for a voted bond, there will be a 20- or 25-year payback option for the $10 million bond. That would mean owners of a home valued at $700,000 would pay $245 per year for the 20-year payback,or $210 a year for the 25-year option. The cost of presenting the bond measures to voters is about $1,200 mark, DePinto said. He added that the city budgets $5,000 annually for this specific reason.

“The discussion that came up is if we were to float a $10 million voter-approved bond first to see if there was interest from the city, and if the taxpayers chose to do that. One of the options is we could come back and add a $5 million general obligation bond, which again by that time the payment of the public safety building would expire,” Stancil said. “The estimate is $600 per square foot for the building. When you look at what other things we can put in the building, I know there’s been conversation of the library. Keep in mind that’s $600 per square foot, and that could add up the price of a YMCA pretty quickly.”

Stancil said that the original plan was $20 million to $25 million, but added that the YMCA should be structured into an amount that can be supported and funded through debt capacity. He noted that the City has a total debt capacity of $1.2 million remaining. 

Since 2000, the city has engaged three different bonds, Stancil said. The attempts include the public safety building, the library and Yelm Community Center. 

DePinto said if the public voted for the $10 million bond, it would be an increase to their property taxes. He reiterated that it would require a 60% majority, adding that a large number of residents within city limits would have to vote in support of the YMCA. 

“I think this gives a path forward for the council, whether they pass it or they don’t, whether there’s going to be support or not for the project, whether or not the people of Yelm want this. You’ll get a physical vote, and you’ll see if they’re willing to increase their taxes to pay for a swimming pool and a YMCA,” DePinto said. “We do have a path forward, which would be at our next City Council meeting and have it tee’d up for a resolution to go to the voters. It would be a first reading, so you’d be able to discuss, talk about it, get voter input, as well, if people wanted to testify on it. We’d tee it up for the next meeting after that, the last meeting in July, on whether or not the council wants to send it to voters to decide.”
The $10 million voted bond and $5 million of unvoted bond money the City would use would be “more than half” the money needed for the YMCA, DePinto added. He said the city could potentially be responsible for land acquisition but noted there’s other options on the table. 

“The YMCA has been open to making this happen, and so I’m sure they’re willing to work with us on how that money works out,” DePinto said. “I think it indicates if it fails, at less than 60% approval, that the voters don’t want it. I wouldn’t push that. If nothing else, it’ll give us closure on whether folks want this or not.”

He added during the next several council meetings, members will hear testimony from residents on how they feel about a YMCA potentially coming to Yelm. 

The mayor said a couple of different locations have been discussed for the site, but it hasn’t been finalized. One of the location choices is near Yelm High School, but DePinto said multiple locations have been vetted. 

Councilor Joshua Crossman said he believed the total bill cost was between $30 million and $40 million, but the city’s total would be closer to $20 million with the rest of the money coming from fundraising. 

DePinto said that cost can be lowered because the City doesn’t “necessarily need to have the library in there.” \

“We don’t necessarily need to have other room space like that, which can lower the cost a little bit, per square foot,” DePinto said. 

Councilor Stephanie Kangiser asked whether it would be wise to present a bond to city residents if the Yelm Community Schools levy didn’t pass twice? DePinto said that’s a good question, but that topic has been discussed and that the YMCA brought it up. 

Crossman asked DePinto if YMCA taxpayers would get a free membership, to which the Mayor said he doesn’t believe so, but if they couldn’t afford it, they wouldn’t be turned away. 

Crossman also asked DePinto when the last time a tax, with 60% voter approval, was passed by local voters? DePinto said one hasn’t been proposed in over a decade, noting the Yelm Community Center bond in 2010 was the last time a bond measure with that specific requirement was brought to voters. That measure failed twice, however that council decided to “move forward and build it anyways,” DePinto said. 

No matter what the people decide, DePinto said the council will honor their vote. He noted that if the bond does pass, planning would immediately commence after the measure is validated. He believes construction could start at the end of 2025, adding the City should know more about securing additional funding at the conclusion of the legislative session next year.