A possible YMCA in Amherst County is projected to cost $12.6 million, according to a recent study into the potential endeavor.
The Amherst County Board of Supervisors discussed the results of the analysis backed by the county, Town of Amherst officials and the YMCA organization during its June 4 meeting. County Administrator Dean Rodgers said the survey results showed there is adequate public support for such a facility in two locations — the Amelon Commerce Center in Madison Heights, behind the Amelon Square shopping center on U.S. 29 Business, and the L. Barnes Brockman Sr. Business and Industrial Park on U.S. 60 in Amherst.
The survey indicated a pool is essential to such a facility and 35,000 square feet would be required, according to Rodgers. The YMCA organization’s model is to have facilities without any debt and construction funding come through donations, he said.
A perpetual fundraising campaign for the life of the potential facility would be needed to keep it going, he said. A concern among YMCA leaders is a new facility in Amherst County could draw members away from a branch in downtown Lynchburg, Rodgers said.
YMCA leaders recommend hiring a consultant to study the giving capacity of the county’s donor pool, but county officials are reluctant to take on costs of another study, according to Rodgers. During board discussion last week, Rodgers was given direction to reach out to Nelson County Administrator Stephen Carter to see if Nelson may have interest in contributing toward a YMCA in Amherst.
The board also gave County Attorney Michael Lockaby direction to explore the potential of having a referendum in the Nov. 5 election to gauge if residents support a tax increase going toward a YMCA.
“This would have a major price tag,” Chairman Jimmy Ayers said.
With such a high cost, he spoke of the need to reach out to the community to get its input.
Rodgers said initial estimates show a 2.5-cent increase in the real estate tax rate of 61 cents per $100 of assessed value would be needed. In recent budget discussions he said he likely would propose a tax increase next year to offset costs of potential adjustments to county salaries. The county last adopted a real estate tax increase of 5 cents in 2016.
“There is no timeline, there is no deadline, there is no established process,” Rodgers said to supervisors. “The [YMCA] simply wants facilities with no debt.”
Supervisor David Pugh said he doesn’t support using taxpayer money to offset a portion of the costs of a YMCA or further study.
“I will not support a referendum,” he said. He said constituents he’s conferred with are not interested in subsidizing a YMCA.
“I think we’ve got more important things to do,” Pugh said.
Rodgers said a point mentioned in the county’s recent talks with YMCA leaders is $3 million to $4 million in a major donation up front could jumpstart a campaign.
“Once people see there is that level of commitment into it, it loosens up the pocketbook of others … they want to see it’s actually going to go forward,” Rodgers said.
The board did not make any formal votes on the matter and Rodgers said the matter is under review with more discussion expected in upcoming meetings.
Ayers said he feels a possible referendum could show if there’s enough interest from the community for the county to pursue issuing bonds for the potential project.
“We know they want it,” Rodgers said, citing the survey. “The real question is do they want to pay for it?”
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.