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Published: 4/24/2001

Y facilities not equal, ex-branch official says

A former YMCA branch board member said yesterday that the local organization reneged on its promise to build a central-city facility and that the present central Y is inadequate when compared with others, particularly those in the suburbs.

“The facilities are separate and not equal, and that is not acceptable,” said Truman Irving, a former member of the board at the Wayman D. Palmer branch on North 14th Street.

A YMCA official said any central-city facility for youths similar to a Y should be built by the city.

Mr. Irving spoke at a news conference at One Government Center organized by Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and attended by leaders of central-city social service organizations and churches.

Mr. Finkbeiner has feuded with the YMCA of Greater Toledo for a month, since the Y announced it may build a facility in Bedford Township.

The mayor said the local YMCA, the nation's 12th largest, should build a full-service facility in Toledo instead. He claimed the organization has lost sight of its original Christian mission of aiding central city youngsters and families.

YMCA officials say they are building facilities where there is the most demand and that they offer numerous programs for central-city youths and families.

Initially, the mayor said a new facility should be downtown, where the YMCA on Jefferson Avenue has been closed since 1980. Yesterday Mr. Finkbeiner broadened the area where such a facility would be acceptable, citing a perimeter roughly bordered by Scott, Central, Woodward, Waite, and Libbey high schools.

Such a facility would better serve low-income neighborhoods where there is a greater need for Y facilities and services, he said.

Mr. Irving, 54, a businessman and former member of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, recalled that after the YMCA on Indiana Avenue closed in 1980, Y officials said the move to the city-owned Wayman Palmer community center was temporary until they could build near downtown. That never happened, and funds set aside for the new Y were spent on other facilities, according to Mr. Irving. “That all but killed the opportunity for a new branch of the Indiana YMCA,” he said.

Mr. Irving said that in 1992, after telling YMCA CEO and President Robert Alexander that a full-service facility should be built in the central city, he was removed from the Wayman Palmer board at the next meeting, “with no explanation.”

Said Mr. Alexander: “I don't select board members. They [Wayman Palmer] select their own board members. I think he's a disgruntled former board member. That was 1992; it's ancient history.”

Mr. Irving said Wayman Palmer's gym, which has a vinyl floor over concrete instead of wood, is inferior. He said its locker rooms are inadequate, that its lack of a swimming pool is inexcusable, and that its programs are nowhere near as substantial as other Ys.

As a result, Mr. Irving said, when Wayman Palmer youths compete against youths from other facilities, the playing field is not level.

Mr. Alexander said the Y spent $926,000 in 1997 renovating Wayman Palmer, adding a computer room, child-care rooms, and a community center. The Y, which contributed $79,000 in subsidized memberships to the branch last year, will study additional central city needs in the fall as it develops its next three-year strategic plan, he added.

He said building a Y takes a considerable amount of money for construction and operating expenses, most of which usually emanate from the neighborhoods where the facility is built.

Mr. Alexander has a suggestion for Mr. Finkbeiner, if the mayor is intent on building a central-city social services facility for youths.

“The city has the funds. If they want a facility, why don't they build it with tax dollars or CDC [Community Development Corp.] funds?” he said. “Why hasn't [the city] put a new gym floor at [Wayman Palmer]?”

The mayor, asked that question at the press conference, said the funds have other uses and that the solution rests with the YMCA. “With its tax-exempt status and executive leadership on its board, the Y has the ability to raise the money.”

Meanwhile, the Board of Community Relations announced it will investigate and attempt to mediate a solution.



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