Recreation: Officials meet, but no decisions made

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, June 30, 2015

NATCHEZ — Officials with the YMCA said Monday plans for a competitive swimming pool might not be the best use of community resources if Natchez and Adams County commit to building a pool.

“If you give me an Olympic or junior Olympic pool, you are going to have a lot of kids hanging out around the fence because they can’t swim or there’s nothing for them to do,” said David Reeves, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA Metropolitan Jackson Office.

“We need to make sure it is a family friendly pool.”

Email newsletter signup

Reeves suggested city officials could envision an L-shaped pool that has practice lanes for competitive swimmers, splash pads and a lazy river around it.

“But that’s just me dreaming,” Reeves said.

Reeves met with members of the Natchez Board of Aldermen, Adams County Board of Supervisors and Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission Monday to discuss the proposal some have put forward of having the YMCA manage or operate a recreation complex on behalf of the city and county governments.

Reeves was joined in representing the YMCA by YMCA Jackson’s Reservoir Branch Operations Director Justin Waldrop and Downtown Jackson Branch Director Pat Lovitt.

During the meeting, Reeves outlined how the YMCA has operated in the Jackson area and how it might work in Natchez.

“Our main five facilities have wellness components to them, but none of our YMCAs are the same or look the same,” he said.

“Some have after school components, one has a preschool component, youth sports, and we work with Adolescent Opportunity Program in 11 counties.”

And while the YMCA is willing to manage facilities that contribute to the good of the community, it doesn’t necessarily want to dismantle what is already working in a community, Reeves said.

“With a staff it brings a consistency to the programs, but it is the volunteers who get us to the people who need to be served,” he said. “We want to come into a situation where the people are helping us serve everyone, much like a church.

“If something is going well and is working well, the last thing we want to do is duplicate programs or deplete someone’s successful program.”

If the YMCA and the local governments can work together, Reeves said he envisioned the YMCA asking for a flat administrative fee of $85,000 to $100,000 in addition to the recreation budget the city and county create for the project. He said the flat fee is “easier and cleaner.”

“In city government, you are in the habit of losing money and being ok with losing money, and that is not what we are able to do,” he said.

“(With) a flat management fee, it would be then our goal to make sure the programs we are doing are bringing in revenue.

“The income would come back to the city rather than to us.”

Reeves said for the YMCA’s after school programs and other tutorial components, the group might be able to find grants to underwrite some of those costs.

During the discussion, several local leaders asked if the FEMA 361 storm shelter being constructed near Natchez High School could be used as part of a wellness program. While some cautioned the building has a number of restrictions on uses, Reeves said it might not be a problem.

“If you felt like there was a need for a wellness center for this city, that would probably work because there is nothing in a gym that would be a permanent fixture,” he said. “You want to put machines in there, they are heavy but they can be moved out in 24 hours.”

Reeves said Natchez and Adams County look like a good place for a potential YMCA partnership because they aren’t asking him to come in and raise millions of dollars to build a facility.

“I think with the city and the county pitching in those dollars along with a private sector that is willing to pitch in, I think it is a very viable option,” he said. “We just need to make sure the programs are meeting the people’s needs. I think there is room there that maybe we put in for a feasibility study if there hasn’t been one done.”

Reeves said the next step would be for the parties involved to present a common vision.

“I don’t envision us spending a lot more dollars than you are used to spending, but I anticipate us being able to get more out of that and being able to start more programs,” he said. “The clearer the vision we can get from you about what we want to be doing, the better.”

Reeves said the YMCA had a feasibility study done for Canton that cost between $25,000 and $30,000.

The meeting ended without any official action from the boards.