Member discounts proposed in DeKalb YMCA deal

DeKalb County and the YMCA are working on a compromise that could appease residents opposed to the county’s plan to purchase the facility for $5 million.

Under the proposal, the South DeKalb YMCA would waive enrollment fees and give a 25 percent monthly discount to all DeKalb residents who want to join, said Commissioner Larry Johnson during Tuesday’s commission meeting.

DeKalb would purchase the YMCA and become the official owner of the 18-acre property, but the YMCA would still run the facility. The transaction allows DeKalb to spend $5 million to improve the facility, adding a senior fitness room, locker rooms, a lobby, offices, walking trails and other features.

Critics of the partnership have said the county shouldn’t be spending government money on a members-only organization like the YMCA. In previous votes, the six-member DeKalb commission lacked the four votes needed for approval.

The county commission scheduled a Sept. 9 vote on the deal.

Johnson said the latest proposal would make the YMCA more appealing to DeKalb taxpayers.

“We take opposition and turn it into opportunity,” Johnson said. “I think we’re getting closer.”

Without the proposed discounts, the enrollment fee for those want a family membership is $99, then it costs $84 per month.

According to the compromise, the YMCA would also give financial assistance based on income, meaning many residents would get more than half off their monthly fee, Johnson said.

Commissioner Kathie Gannon, who has previously voted against the county’s spending on the YMCA, said the compromise has the potential to break the commission’s impasse on the issue.

She said she’s asking that the South DeKalb YMCA be available for county meetings and programming, which could save the money spent by the county for leasing facilities.

“It needs to be open to the citizens who are paying for it, and also for use by the county,” Gannon said.