By Paul T. Choate
Jan. 11, 2012. The Watauga County Public Library played host to a lively discussion at a YMCA steering committee formation meeting on Thursday evening.
Though a steering committee was not formed, as was the original idea, many audience members in attendance voiced their thoughts and concerns.
Brian Lowe, executive director of the Hope Pregnancy Resource Center and Watauga YMCA advocate, and Bob Conklin, Catawba Valley YMCA CEO, acted as emcees of the event.
Conklin said the group was on phase two (out of four) in terms of bringing a Y to Watauga. He cautioned people to not worry yet about the high price tag of bringing a Y to Watauga, saying first they needed to continue to garner widespread community interest and assess a primary market area.
“I wouldn’t be discouraged with numbers,” Conklin said. “You talk about $4 million, $5 million, $6 million… It can be done. It has been done throughout the country.”
Conklin said based talking with leaders in the community, there are three primary needs in the community that a Y could offer: a child care center, a new swimming pool and a place for teenagers to go and have fun in a safe environment.
Daniel Greene, of Merrill Lynch, was in attendance at the meeting and cautioned it might be better to propose a generic recreation center as opposed to specifically a YMCA, saying that might ultimately lead to the community wanting a Y anyway.
Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson said at the meeting that she has heard some opposition a Y in the past.
“I have had a couple of people that said to me, ‘We want to have our recreation center,’ and these are movers and shakers. I won’t name them, but I have heard them say that,” Clawson said.
Lowe said, however, that he did not want to take any steps back and said he would prefer to continue investigating the feasibility of a Y specifically. He noted that the last time a raised tax had been proposed for a generic recreation center, voters had opposed it.
Going forward, the Y advocates will ultimately have to form a capital campaign steering committee when the time comes. Conklin also said he needs to be able to set up appointments with some of the key leaders in the community to see if they would support the Y.
As for community interest in the Y, Lowe said in a survey of 50 people conducted during the October meeting, there was 87 percent support for a Watauga YMCA. This closely resembles the current results of the poll on High Country Press’ website asking the same question. With 80 votes submitted as of Friday morning, there is 83 percent support for a Watauga YMCA on the HCP Poll.
For those who do want a Y locally, they may be encouraged to know that, at the meeting, Conklin said he has been invited to the upcoming county commissioners retreat to speak on the topic.
No date for a next meeting was set, but Lowe offered his email address, saying he would add anyone interested in coming to future meetings to his contacts and email them as updates came available.
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