Sunday, September 19, 2004

Florence, Boone disagree on how to use funds

$1.8 million realized from sale of recreation center on Main Street

By Brenna R. Kelly
Enquirer staff writer

FLORENCE - City and county officials disagree over what should happen to nearly $2 million that the county will get from selling a community recreation center.

Florence councilman Mel Carroll wants the county to reinvest the money in recreation inside the city limits. But Judge-executive Gary Moore said the money should go back into the county's reserve account.

Last year, the county bought the Tri-City YMCA on Florence's Main Street from the YMCA for $1.8 million and planned to operate it as a community center. But to save taxpayer money, the county accepted plans to sell the center to the Shaun Alexander Family Foundation, which will operate it as a community center. The Foundation's $1.8 million bid was the only one the county received.

Carroll said the county "made a commitment, to some extent, by buying the building, and I'd like to encourage them to continue that commitment by reinvesting in the city."

On Sept. 2, Florence Mayor Diane Whalen sent a letter to the county asking that the money be used in some type of collaborative project between the county and city. It also requested a meeting to discuss potential projects.

Moore said this week that Fiscal Court has not yet discussed Whalen's letter.

"My recommendation would be to put the funds back into the reserve account that they were taken from," Moore said. "The account had fallen below a level that I would have been comfortable with."

The county bought the facility for "all residents of the county, not just the city of Florence," he said. "It's not like the center is being taken away, it will probably be expanded."

But because Boone County has recently spent money for recreation in the unincorporated part of the county - such as the Union Swim Club -- Carroll said the money should be spent in Florence.

"We appreciate everything that the Boone County government does for the citizens in the entire county. The 25,000 Florence residents are also county residents, we encourage the Fiscal Court to also recognize that and work with us to serve those citizens," Carroll said.

"We look forward to meeting with the Fiscal Court soon to explore common endeavors."

The 1,200 memberships from the Tri-City YMCA were transferred to the new R.C. Durr YMCA in Burlington. The newly named Boone County Community Recreation Center then had just 25 members. Now it has about 200.

The county is still negotiating with Shaun Alexander, a Boone County High School graduate who is now a running back for the Seattle Seahawks, and his foundation, Moore said. The county wants to make sure the center is open for all Boone County residents, he said.

The sale could be final by late October.



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