YMCA open houses draw seniors

Oct. 1—The process of answering questions about the proposed collaboration between the Owensboro Family YMCA and the Senior Community Center of Owensboro-Daviess County continued Friday, with officials holding an open house about the project at the Y facility on Kentucky Parkway.

The proposal calls for the YMCA to be expanded, creating separate space for a new senior center. The seniors are currently at the Elizabeth Munday Center on Second Street, a facility that officials say is outdated and not suited to seniors' needs.

The boards of the Family Y and the senior center approved a joint memorandum of understanding earlier this week. While the plan is still in flux, officials are considering smaller and larger options for expanding the building to create a Senior Center. The preferred option creates 11,000 square feet of space, along with certain spaces that would be shared by the two organizations.

John Alexander, president and CEO of the Family Y, told visitors at Friday's open house that the organizations will work out schedules for using the shared space. The YMCA will own the building.

"The MOU calls for a lease of 30 years, at $1 a year," Alexander said.

There are possibilities for creating more space for seniors, Alexander said. For example, a patio in the preliminary design could be enclosed, and an additional floor could be built in one section to increase space, Alexander said.

Senior Center Director Becky Barnhart said seniors she has spoken to have echoed comments at forums held last month.

"Our folks are still concerned about the space," Barnhart said.

The city has set aside about $3 million for the project, and Daviess Fiscal Court has another $2 million in its budget to expand the YMCA. The total project cost would be $12.4 million, which YMCA and senior center would have to raise.

When asked how much it would cost to bring the Munday Center up to standards, Barnhart said, "We haven't looked at what it would cost to renovate the building.

"Since I became director, the only option is the partnership with the Y," Barnhart said.

In addition to asking questions, visitors were also able to tour the Y building and see how the plan would be implemented. YMCA board chairman Bo Ivey said he has spoken to seniors who are both opposed and for the proposed partnership.

"I think being here and see what the potential could be is extremely helpful," Ivey said, and that he has spoken to "not just current members, but members of the community who have approached me and said it's a good thing."

While the YMCA would maintain its own membership, some Y classes could be open to users of the senior center, along with facilities like the pool for specific events. Other Y programs would only be for Y members, along with the use of certain facilities.

The YMCA has about 1,000 seniors as members.

"Our goal from the YMCA is to highlight that age group, and embrace it," Ivey said. "We want all our age groups to take ownership of the facility, and that's what this plan does."

Barbara Wells, who uses the senior center, toured the YMCA Friday, and said she still had issues with the proposal.

"When we go to the senior center, there's no charge" to participate in activities, Wells said. "For some people, that's the only activity they have."

Charlotte Hedges, who also attended the open house, said she had concerns about whether or not the senior center would have room to grow under the plan.

"I want what's best for the seniors in the community of Owensboro," Hedges said.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse