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James L. White/Staff

John Porter (standing), a vocal opponent of the proposed community recreational complex sales taxes, told a crowd Monday night that a YMCA organization would allow for people who use the facility to pay for it instead of taxpayers footing the bill whether they use it or not.

About 60 people showed up Monday night for a discussion of trying to recruit a YMCA organization to Harrison and they heard community support would be key.

With the recent failure of a pair of sales taxes that would have built a community recreational complex, Jeff Crockett, a former Harrison Mayor, invited anyone interested in a YMCA to the Durand Center to talk about it.

There was a similar effort in 2011 during Crockett’s first year in office as mayor. But that ended after the regional YMCA office made financial requirements the committee seeking donations couldn’t meet.

Crockett told the group Monday night that when a YMCA opens a facility in a new area, it starts small. It would be some exercise equipment, health training and programs for children before and after school.

He said one problem some mothers have with holding a full-time job is childcare. They have nowhere to take their children, so they opt instead to “get a check.”

In Monett, Missouri, the YMCA started in 2004 and built an aqua plex in 2011. The Y in Cassville, Missouri, is still new, but the city turned over management of their swimming pools to the Y for management because the city was losing money in the effort, Crockett said.

He continued saying Monett has a population under 9,000, but 6,800 members at the YMCA. During this time of year, the Y employs 80 part-time staffers, but the number grows by 30 during summer months.

He explained the community involvement in fundraising that went into the Monett aqua plex, which cost about $12 million to build. Individuals and businesses got together to raise the money and even an endowment fund for continued upkeep.

“That’s the kind of community support we need to gather in order to get them here,” Crockett told the crowd.

The effort would require a market analysis and research, a feasibility study and an exploratory committee made up of people who are “community influencers” — Crockett said those members don’t have to have money, but a desire to get things done.

He went on to say that he had spoken with people who voted for the sales tax issue and those who voted against it. There are plenty of lower-income individuals in the community who simply couldn’t afford the additional $15 a month it would cost them in sales tax, much less the membership to use the facility.

“This doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything,” Crockett said. “This is a fundraising effort where we go around and get pledges and try to raise the funds to get them their first three years’ worth of support where they can come in here and not run with a negative cash flow the first three years.”

The corporation then funds itself with fees for programs and other classes users want. The YMCA is also intent on seeking grants.

There are 2,700 YMCA facilities across the country, he said.

“They know what they’re doing. They know how to make it work and they know how to pay their bills,” Crockett said. “And they don’t come to the taxpayers and ask for money.”

John Porter was a vocal opponent of the city community rec plex proposal. He spoke to the crowd near the end of the meeting, especially to those people who voted in favor of the sales tax proposals.

“Isn’t what’s being described here basically what you’re looking for?” Porter asked.

He allowed that the city’s proposal was on a much grander scale, but he felt it still achieved the same end. The difference, Porter said, was that the YMCA concept won’t use tax dollars. If paid for with a sales tax, the people pay for it whether they use it or not.

“With this one, if you don’t use it you don’t pay for it,” Porter said. “Is there anything wrong with that? Is there anything wrong with paying for what you use and not paying for what you don’t use?”

Crockett told the crowd that the project isn’t his: He said there are plenty of people who would be opposed to the idea just because he is involved.

He said Tuesday that he is not sure exactly who will spearhead the drive as yet, but if you’re interested in getting involved, you can email jeff.crockett@cox.net and he will get your contact information to the appropriate person.

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