During a Yelm City Council study session on March 7, Mayor Joe DePinto provided an update on the city’s ongoing discussions to bring a YMCA to the community as he focused on ways to pay for the facility.
DePinto said the biggest basis for bringing a YMCA to Yelm would be the public swimming pool, but he said there are many other benefits. The new YMCA could potentially house the Yelm Timberland Library, as well as a medical services facility.
“This has been something that’s been wanted and needed in our community for a long, long time,” DePinto said.
The YMCA project is estimated to cost $18 million. DePinto said there are different ventures the city could take in order to find funding for the facility. Options include selling city-owned properties or buildings.
According to DePinto, they will need “at least” eight acres for the project.
The proposed YMCA in Yelm would be larger than the newly built YMCA in Shelton, but it would be smaller than the Briggs YMCA in Tumwater.
“The more money we put into it, the faster it could be built because it wouldn’t require more time to raise those funds,” DePinto said. “But with that being said, it’s also a lot of money to spend for taxpayers and we’d need to justify that.”
The mayor said there’s a handful of options on the table, including turning to the people for a vote on a potential bond measure.
“Things could go a couple different ways,” DePinto said. “We could own the building, we could own the land, we could do a lease. They could have control on operations of the building. I just need to know from the council what you want.”
DePinto said the city will not get into a situation where they go into a lot of debt for the project.
Another option the city council has discussed is selling the city-owned 640 acre area near Tahoma Terra. In August, the mayor and the council will discuss what they plan to do with the property.
“We need to find out if it’s a good habitat for gophers, specifically the species that lives here in Yelm,” DePinto told the Nisqually Valley News on March 9. “We also need to know where those gophers are at and if it can fit into our habitat conservation plan.”
DePinto said the property could potentially be sold with a master planned community in mind to a developer.
The 640-acre area was zoned for a master planned community, or an area that has to feature different recreational activities like an aquatic center, an event center or a recreational center.
“It’s going to be millions of dollars for that property and you don’t see many properties like that within city limits,” DePinto said. “The people of Yelm will benefit from the use of that 640 acres.”
Councilmember James Blair noted the residents of Yelm should benefit from a YMCA if their tax money is used for the facility.
“I’m all for the Y, but I’m pretty clear that if we’re going to talk about tax money paying for any of this, there needs to be a specific benefit for people who live within the city limits,” Blair said. “The Y is a great place, but what they can’t do is make an argument that they don’t have money.”
The mayor added that once construction of the YMCA is complete, the organization would be in charge of handling operational costs.
DePinto noted bringing a YMCA to Yelm has been on the city’s agenda since 2008. He said the City of Yelm first conducted a citywide survey that year to gauge the community’s interest in different amenities or organizations they would like to see in the city. Through those efforts, they found the most common “want” or “need” of citizens was a public swimming pool, which would be resolved through the addition of a YMCA.
The interest in a swimming pool was doubled down on at the Home and Garden show in 2015, when another survey was conducted. The survey showed residents still had a high interest in a public swimming pool and other amenities, which could be provided through a YMCA facility.
DePinto said discussions about the YMCA will occur in the future at another study session, where he’ll provide more information.
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