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October 9, 2013

City mulls YMCA-run youth programs

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — ONEONTA — Informal talks between the city and Oneonta Family YMCA could lead to the organization taking over some youth and summer programs, officials said Tuesday.

“We would have to reach an agreement that would have to be approved by the Common Council,” Mayor Dick Miller said, adding that there is an informal proposal that has not been finalized.

The services, including summer pools, have been provided by the Oneonta City Parks Department, which has historically provided other services as well, such as adult softball, Miller said. The council will also discuss whether it continue those efforts in current budget talks while trying to close the projected $2 million deficit the city faces.

YMCA Executive Director Frank Russo did not return two calls for comment Tuesday.

Under the informal plan, the long-term savings to the city could be $100,000 a year, Miller said. The first year savings would be $40,000. “As we confront the deficit we have to look at services government provides,” Miller said. It is something he has proposed for years. Police, fire, water, sewers and roads are priorities. But when the city look at parks and other services it’s important to consider whether it is necessary, Miller said.

Even with the agreement, there would still “significant” park facilities, so there should be no full- time staffing cuts as a direct result. There could be some attrition over time, he said. There are currently seven full-time employees in the department. He did not have the number of part-time personnel. He would try to maintain his city policy of trying to not have layoffs, by taking advantage of attrition.

Council Member Michael Lynch of the Fourth Ward said he has seen a draft of the proposal and “I am opposed to privatizing the pool. I don’t think the safety of our children should be put out to the lowest bidder.”

He said the agreement wouldn’t lead to significant savings, and the talks have not included the Common Council.

City Recreation Director Steven Andrews said the talks are the result of ongoing discussions with several organizations about youth programming. He said he’d have to see the details of any proposal before he comments.

City Manager Michael Long, who has been involved with the discussions, said he should know more about the proposal in a week or two as details on the budget are finalized.

What’s being discussed includes no charge for city residents and a nominal fee for those in the town, he said, and there would be scholarships for those who can’t afford it.