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Published: Tuesday, 9/15/2009

Open forum on South Toledo YMCA set Wednesday

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The fate of the South Toledo YMCA will be addressed Wednesday night at a public meeting and open forum involving community members and decision makers of the YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo.

Set for 7 p.m. in the Teamsters Hall, 435 South Hawley St. near the Anthony Wayne Trail, the meeting was requested of YMCA leaders by the Coalition of Concerned Citizens and Y Members, which aims to prevent the closure of the South Toledo branch.

Initially set to close last month, the aging and money-losing South Toledo YMCA on Woodsdale Park Road was given a reprieve until Thanksgiving.

Coalition member Cooper Suter said tomorrow's meeting will provide the YMCA an opportunity to fully explain why it sought to close the branch building. It also will give residents and members the chance to ask questions of the nonprofit organization's decision makers.

“This is the meeting we've been asking for for over six weeks,” Mr. Suter said Monday.

Todd Tibbits, YMCA senior vice president of operations, said he also will attend the meeting and hopes to see constructive dialogue.

Others expected from the Y include Paul Schlatter, board chairman, and several board trustees. Mr. Tibbits said he was not sure whether Robert Alexander, Y president and chief executive officer, plans to attend.

“What we're trying to do is to seek community input and feedback,” Mr. Tibbits said. “The coalition told us they worked hard to make sure that this is a very productive evening.”

While the branch closure can be an emotionally fraught issue for some people, Mr. Suter said that “forthright civil questions and forthright civil answers” is Wednesday's goal.

“Name calling and yelling doesn't serve anyone's purpose,” he said.

Coalition members hope that Y leaders at the meeting will address their call for a “practical and sustainable” membership drive for the South Toledo branch, Mr. Suter said. The coalition has criticized the current membership drive challenge — selling 500 branch-only reduced-price memberships by Nov. 26 — as set up to fail.

Looking to the future, Mr. Suter said he would like the Y to commit and move forward with building a new South Toledo facility similar to the $8.2 million West Toledo YMCA that just opened. The YMCA has explored building a larger Y on the University of Toledo's Health Science Campus in partnership with UT and the Margaret Hunt Senior Center.

“The whole point of this is to get us to a new Y building,” he said, “to get something equivalent to what West Toledo has for the south end.”

Contact JC Reindl at:jreindl@theblade.comor 419-724-6065.



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