Group meets about possible YMCA expansion
SPRUCE PINE – More than 70 people packed the Spruce Pine Fire Department this past Wednesday for an information session regarding the possible expansion of the YMCA into Mitchell County.
CEO of Williams YMCA of Avery County Trey Oakley gave a presentation and fielded questions from attendees.
Chelsea Wilson Thayer, of the Mitchell Wellness Initiative, welcomed guests and gave a brief introduction at the beginning of the session.
Thayer said she is optimistic about the expansion and said it would provide numerous benefits to Mitchell County.
Oakley said the priorities for a YMCA in Mitchell County would be health and wellness, youth development and out-of-school care, active older adult programming and indoor recreation. Other priorities could be added based on local input.
Oakley reiterated that bringing the YMCA to the area would require a community effort. He added the steps are surveying the community, identifying the scope of the project and the developing committees.
Community partnerships are a key part of the equation, Oakley added.
To move forward with the project, at least five letters of support for the expansion must be filed by June 1. The community survey must be completed by the same date.
“Clearly, your commitment is there,” Oakley said to the crowd. “Raising money for a building is probably the biggest issue.”
Priorities will be identified by June 8 and facility layout options will be finalized by June 15.
A meeting with funders is set for Aug. 1 and another public meeting to discuss the next steps is expected to happen in September.
“It’s optimistic,” Oakley said. “Can we sustain it and can we operate it without losing money is the biggest question.”
County Commissioners Matthew “Vern” Grindstaff, Keith Holtsclaw and Danny Burleson were present at the meeting. Spruce Pine Mayor Darla Harding and Mitchell County Manager Kathy Young were also in attendance.
During the question-and-answer period, Grindstaff asked Oakley how much monetary support the Williams YMCA receives from its local government. Oakley said it receives about $30,000 annually from Avery County.
Members of the public also posed questions about what programs could be offered, what potential facilities would include and what benefits the YMCA could bring to the county.
Oakley closed the session by reiterating his optimism for the expansion.
“We have to figure out how to utilize what we have here,” he said. “We’re committed to making this work if the community is interested.”