Thursday, May 6, 2004

Plan to build Y questioned

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DEERFIELD TWP. - Residents in this southern Warren County community say they would like a YMCA in their community, but some of them do not think their tax dollars should help fund it.

More than 50 people attended a three-hour discussion with township trustees about the Y Tuesday night.

Deerfield trustees on May 18 will continue discussing a joint venture with Symmes Township, their Hamilton County neighbor, to fund an $11 million satellite of the Ralph J. Stolle Countryside Y of Lebanon. The center would be built on more than half of a Deerfield-Township-owned 27-acre property on Montgomery Road.

While several of the residents said they would like a Y closer to home, a few had concerns that taxpayers who would be funding the center could not afford to be members. Countryside Y is not considering giving Symmes and Deerfield residents a break on admission. A new family membership at Countryside Y costs $885.96.

"Every year, I have to look at it and say, 'Can I still afford to be a member?'" said Connie Brennan, a Deerfield resident. "It may be reasonable compared to other YMCAs, but a lot of people can't afford to go."

Should plans be approved, Countryside would pay for about half the center, not including land costs.

Some residents, including Township Clerk Kristin Spiekerman who spoke as resident, also raised concerns about using park money to fund the Y. Some residents said they would rather see parks developed with more ball fields and walking paths.

"We can't spend all of our money on this when there are so many other things in the township that are not being addressed," resident Jeff Roller said.

Deerfield Trustee Randy Kuvin said township finances are in good shape, and that park money was only one of seven potential sources the township is considering.

Symmes Township, which needs to pass a levy to build the facility, will hold public meetings May 20 and 25 to explain the proposal and gauge resident interest.

Symmes Trustee Kathy Wagner said Symmes residents also have expressed reservations about being taxed for the building, then having to pay for a membership.

"If the whole thing falls apart, we just drop it. I hope that doesn't happen. I think the people need to understand, the two townships will actually own the building and we will bring the Y in to manage it," she said.

She said Deerfield and Symmes residents will have the option to join only the outside pool, unlike nonresidents who must pay for a full Y membership to use it.

"We are trying to work in benefits for residents. It is just the building we are building. In case the Y leaves some day, we will still have the building," she said.

Sheila McLaughlin contributed. E-mail

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