Based on estimates from the YMCA of San Diego, Poway could possibly save more than $15 million in design and construction costs by partnering with them on a jointly owned community/senior center.
Taking the next small step toward that end, Tuesday night the Poway City Council agreed to let the YMCA spend about $40,000 in the next few months to conduct a telephone survey of nearby residents to see exactly what services people would want in the building so that designs could be developed by the city and the YMCA that would satisfy all needs.
Sometime early next year the survey results will be presented to the city which will likely then be asked whether to enter into an agreement that would halt all work on a city-only center. Construction proposals submitted by eight different companies to build a city-only center recently came in much higher than expected — between $20 and $28 million — leading several members of the council to say those plans may have to be scrapped in favor of something cheaper no matter what happens with the YMCA.
The council was told by City Manager Tina White the YMCA estimates that a 36,000-square-foot community center, comparable in size to the one the city has already created preliminary designs for, could be built for about $11 million.
Eight million dollars has already been set aside by the city for construction costs. The city was tentatively planning to finance the remaining millions that would have been needed through bonds which would have taken many years to pay off.
In a letter to the council, the YMCA said if the city paid all the costs of the new center it could be built within two years. The YMCA said if the city paid for 75 percent of the project, it could be built within 36 months and if the city funds 50 percent of the project, it could be built in 40 months.
A number of people Tuesday night spoke against the partnership. Though some of the speakers were candidates running for city council, others were seniors who use the current center. Also nearly begging the council to reconsider the path it was taking was Leslie Hoffman, the executive director of the senior center for the past 16 years who said she greatly worries that current services being provided won’t be met by the YMCA.
“There is not one member of the senior center that supports this,” Hoffman said. “There is not one member on our board who supports this.”
She asked the council members to reconsider their position. “Your citizens have spoken. Please, please reconsider this proposal and please consider the services we provide.”
The council made it clear no decisions have been made and all they were doing was agreeing to let the YMCA do the survey. But they all also reiterated their position that the possibility of saving so much money on a project that was already running the risk of being killed because of the high costs was a fiduciary duty they had to explore.
“I see this as a tremendous opportunity to gain professional and scientific input, whether or not we end up going with the Y or whether we end up going someplace else,” said Mayor Steve Vaus. He said with the YMCA offering to pay for the survey “we would be foolish not to take advantage of that.”
Councilman Barry Leonard said the YMCA has approached the city “with a proposal to do us a favor.” He said the council is not committing to anything. “They are an invited guest and they are bringing something to the table.”