September 20, 2005 in City

YWCA members feel pool’s closure punitive

By The Spokesman-Review

YWCA members who voted against a proposed sale of the organization’s building in August felt they were being punished Monday night when the nonprofit’s management announced it would close the swimming pool Oct. 31.

Many members who use the building’s aquatic exercise programs voted against the proposed sale out of concern that they’d lose the swimming pool, they said at the time. They also felt they did not have enough information about the deal.

“We’re supposed to be empowering women. Well, we’re women and we’re having power taken away,” said Lori Morrisey, who uses the swimming programs for rehabilitation. “We are people in peril, too.”

But YWCA Executive Director Monica Walters said the pool was not being closed to punish the members, but because the YWCA could no longer afford to operate it. Rising energy costs have made it more expensive for the organization to heat the pool and run its pump, Walters told members in a letter distributed Monday.

Following the August vote, the board of directors realized, after a review of state law, that they did not have to hold a vote to authorize the sale of the building, Walters said. A majority of the members attending the August meeting supported the sale.

The YWCA now plans to sell the building to SRM Development of Spokane for $4 million, Walters confirmed.

At the Monday night meeting, called to discuss the swimming programs, YWCA managers told members about the pool closure and offered financial compensation to help them attend other aquatic exercise programs nearby. Saying “nearly identical” programs were available at the YMCA and the Salvation Army, the YWCA’s management offered to refund membership money or to pay members’ sign-up fees at the YMCA.

Some members said they’d volunteered to help market the swimming pool programs to help raise more money.

“Why do we have to close it immediately?” asked Lois Cates. “There are so many alternatives to shutting it down.”

Walters barred a reporter from attending the meeting, saying it was only for members.

The YWCA and YMCA recently announced plans to sell their buildings and combine the proceeds to launch a capital campaign with a goal of $25 million. That money would be used to purchase several acres of property in downtown Spokane and create a campus with new, separate buildings. The goals of co-location would be to expand services and eliminate duplication. For example, fitness programs, including aquatic exercise, would be housed at the YMCA while the YWCA would focus more on helping women and children suffering from abuse or neglect.

The directors of both the YWCA and the YMCA have said the plan, which would take about three years, would not interrupt services. Although the YWCA’s pool is closing, the two organizations’ buildings will not be closed until the new buildings are open and operational, they have said.

Some members have criticized the YWCA for not putting the sale of the property out to bid, as the YMCA is doing. Both properties overlook the Spokane River in downtown Spokane. However, Walters said in a letter to members that over the past 10 years, the YWCA has received many offers to purchase the buildings at 829 W. Broadway. None has met the price or conditions of SRM’s offer, the letter said. In addition, the offer is above the value placed on the property through an independent appraisal. That figure was not disclosed.

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