See a statement from the City Youth Board below this story.
City Council members tonight reminisced about their childhood days “hanging out at the Y” as they sent out positive vibes about a proposed four-year contract that would put the Genesee Area Family YMCA in charge of running city youth services.
After hearing from Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski that “the YMCA came in with the best price” and that cost savings to the city are projected at more than $60,000 annually over the next four years, Council Member John Canale and President Eugene Jankowski Jr. strolled down memory lane.
“I heard the YMCA is dying to build a brand-new outdoor city pool like we used to have when I was growing up,” Canale joked.
That prompted Jankowski to endorse the Y, illustrating his support by displaying his YMCA membership card from 1971 that he said he found during “COVID clean-out.”
“So, I was a member as a teenager myself. And now they mention they’re building a large new facility right in the middle of our downtown. So, they’re investing here,” Jankowski said. “This is like a win-win for all of us, including the most important people who are on my list for this whole project is the children themselves – our future – so they can have a place to go, like I had a place to go.”
Canale countered by pointing out that this offers “year-round availability to our local kids.”
“When you and I grew up, I remember distinctly hanging out at the Y, when it was the old building, and you’d just go there and hang out after school or on Saturday (and) shoot pool. They used to have three pool tables downstairs.”
Today, the YMCA is making plans to partner with United Memorial Medical Center for a Healthy Living Campus, a project supported by the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. It has expanded its services over the years and seems to be in excellent position to operate the city youth program efficiently and effectively.
City leaders decided to not staff their afterschool and summer recreation programs anymore after having to close the Liberty Center for Youth due to the COVID-19 pandemic and also due to budget constraints. They reached out via a request for proposal process to organizations that might be interested in providing these services and the YMCA got the nod.
A resolution outlining the formal agreement with the YMCA and another to dissolve a pact with Genesee County to provide a youth bureau executive director were forwarded to Council’s Business Meeting on March 8th for a vote.
“I believe this is the right way to provide the residents and youth and families this service, and I think that collaborating with the YMCA for the afterschool program (at the Liberty Center for Youth on the City Church St. Anthony’s campus) has worked out very well thus far,” Tabelski said. “They have been an excellent partner to us in the city.”
Jeff Townsend, district executive director for the GLOW YMCA, said the plan is “to incorporate all of our YMCA services into this new relationship with the city, including swimming at the Y … at our Liberty Center gymnastics center (on Liberty Street near Ficarella’s Pizzeria). We could incorporate gymnastics at the Liberty Center (for Youth) site that we’re currently partnering with the city on for school year programming.”
He said the Liberty Center could host summer programs as well.
“So, the parks could travel throughout the community and participate in some of our other area locations as well as traditional field trips – walking and busing – that’s already in the RFP plan,” he said. “I think that our plan is pretty robust and covering and ensuring that no less services will be provided and probably more services, in fact.”
Jankowski mentioned that other partnerships geared toward youth, such as the National Night Out, already are in place, and Townsend said the YMCA is willing to participate.
Townsend also answered “yes” to a question from Council Member Robert Bialkowski about the possibility of applying for grants to fund additional programs.
Tabelski, responding to a question from Council Member Rose Mary Christian on whether children from outside of the city can participate, said the city receives financial support from the Town of Batavia so its young people – as long as they attend Batavia City or parochial schools – would be able to take part.
Christian said she wouldn’t object to opening the city’s program to youth in surrounding towns and villages in Genesee County as long as the county pays an annual fee.
Following the meeting, Rob Walker, chief executive officer for the GLOW YMCA, said he is excited to partner with the city to deliver summer recreation program at four city parks – John Kennedy, Farrall, Lambert and Williams – and continuing to provide services at the Liberty Center for Youth.
“We bring a tremendous amount of abilities and talents from our organization. We are the leader in youth development and we’re looking forward to a great relationship,” he said.
Walker said the YMCA can offer “enhancements” beyond the scope of the contract because they have a complete facility and the gymnastics center.
“We’re going to take full advantage of all the resources the Y has to enhance what currently has been done in the past," he said.
Healthy Living Campus Advances
Asked about the status of the Healthy Living Campus, Walker said Clark Patterson Lee has been hired as the architect, and the hospital (United Memorial Medical Center) and the Y are moving forward.
“We’ve crossed the $11 million mark in fundraising (the goal is $14 million) and plan on moving forward this fall with construction,” he said. “The community has been amazingly supportive of our project.”
He acknowledged that the coronavirus set the project back a bit.
“Obviously, COVID slowed our efforts down as we had to shift to the needs of the community, which we did, providing emergency childcare and other programs like Y Academy. But we’re back, focused on the project and the goal is to have it open at the end of next year,” he said.
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Photo: Leading the GLOW YMCA's effort to contract with the City of Batavia to provide youth services beginning April 1 are, from left, Charitie Bruning, childcare and camp director; Jeff Townsend, district executive director; Rob Walker, chief executive officer. Photo by Mike Pettinella.