Residents Balk at Turning Fitness Center Over to YMCA

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Residents of Niles, Ill., are objecting to a plan that would turn over control of the local community fitness center to the YMCA.

A virtual meeting of the Niles Village Board revealed substantial opposition to a plan that would turn over operations of the Niles Family Fitness Center to the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. 

With few exceptions, the majority of the comments and emails were critical of the village entering into an agreement with the YMCA, with some expressing unhappiness with the way YMCA facilities are run.

“By letting the Y take over, it’s no longer a Niles-controlled facility,” said resident and fitness center member Kevin Plach, according to the Chicago Tribune. “It will be controlled by the Y, which has the entire Chicagoland to look out for. If the park district takes over, then it’s being controlled by a board of Niles residents who will put the residents of Niles first. You can’t guarantee the YMCA will do that.”

On commenter said that the decision should be put to a community vote.

“Why can’t there be a referendum vote and let the people talk?” asked Karen Papucci. “Let them make the call, not just the board and the mayor. If the Y is the winner, so be it, but we should have the chance to vote on it.”

The village was accused of having already agreed to the deal after the YMCA hired a contractor to assess the condition of the facility to figure out whether it will need improvements in the near future.

Village manager Hadley Skeffington-Vos denied that the any deal had been made and both parties apologized for having hired the contractor to assess the facility.

The village is considering the YMCA’s proposal to assume control of the facility because the center runs on an annual deficit of $385,000. The partnership with the YMCA is seen as a way of possibly reducing the burden of repairs and operations on taxpayers.

The village has said it could save about $8.4 million over the 15 years of the agreement, plus another $1.1 million in internal savings related to running the center, the Village Board was told recently.

Discussions on the YMCA deal have now been paused and the board is currently looking at other possible ways forward.  

There are currently 1,573 Niles Family Fitness Center memberships, Skeffington-Vos said. This number does not include the 984 complimentary memberships that are provided to elected officials and employees of the village, she said. Of that total, 231 complimentary memberships were actually used in 2019.

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