YMCA Building Moves Closer To Wrecker's Ball

The final disposition of the former flagship Crescent Park location of the YMCA of Moose Jaw drew one step closer to the wrecker's ball after a tie vote at Moose Jaw City Council.

The former headquarters of the now defunct YMCA of Moose Jaw – located at 220 Fairford Street East – was discussed with Administration recommending in a report a Request For Proposal (RFP) be advertised to see if there was any interest in the facility.

The Crescent Park flagship location of the now defunct YMCA of Moose Jaw

The Crescent Park flagship location of the now defunct YMCA of Moose Jaw

“The building itself requires a large amount of money to bring it up to standards so we can use it…(we) don't particularly have a use for the facility,” city manager Jim Puffalt told Council saying an RFP would see if there was any interest out there for the facility.

As part of the motion made by Mayor Fraser Tolmie the proposed RFP would include the sale of not just the former YMCA building but the Natatorium as well. The Natatorium would maintain its heritage status and additionally access to the Phyllis Dewar Outdoor Pool from the Natatorium would be maintained.

The proposed RFP would not transfer the land as it would have to be leased from the City.

Speaking against the RFP Councillor Brian Swanson said he was opposed to the potential demolition of Natatorium but was in favour of the demolition of the former YMCA building.

Councillor Swanson asked the question what would Council do when the inevitable happened and the City received an RFP proposal for $1 to operate some sort of programs out of the former YMCA building?

The RFP had the potential to “further get ourselves into the quicksand,” he said.

“The solution involves millions and we don't have the money…although not a great situation now it probably could get worse.”

“My crystal ball tells me there will be a submission on the viability of that building…will be there (and) will be City involvement.”

Mayor Tolmie said he supported the RFP because it might be a way to reduce costs to the City involving any future demolition of the former YMCA building.

“The cost of demolition of the Y lays with the citizens of Moose Jaw,” he said, adding an RFP may find an outside business interest who would “realize opportunity there and are willing to take on those (demolition) costs.”

Councillor Crystal Froese said she supported an RFP but the City additionally needed to “revisit what we want to do with the Natatorium.”

“We as a Council need to decide what we are going to do with this building (the Natatorium),” Councillor Froese said.

Councillor Heather Eby, who previously sat on the YMCA's board when the decision was made to close the Fairford Street location, said a study was completed to bring the Y building up to code with an estimated cost of $6 million.

“I am not super hopeful to get back responses palatable to this Council…even if the RFP is not successful this is not a vote for demolishing the Nat,” Councillor Eby said.

Mayor Fraser Tolmie said he had heard the figure was actually $16 million but thought the number was closer to $21 million.

In making his motion for the RFP the Mayor stated the Natatorium was to maintain its heritage status in any RFP calling it “a jewel in Crescent Park.”

In a tie vote, with Councillor Chris Warren absent, issuing an RFP was defeated.

In losing the RFP proposal Mayor Tolmie expressed his disappointment.

“By voting down the RFP you have just voted down others coming up with a solution,” he said, adding “I don’t see the logic in that there could have been potential there.”

Councillor Eby saw defeating the RFP as a positive thing.

“We are in a much better position when there are no more encumbrances on the Nat,” she said.

Councillor Swanson asked Administration about comments made in an in-camera meeting and funds to demolish the former Y building.

City Manager Puffalt said presently there are no funds to demolish the former Y building but they would have to be voted in for the 2020 budget. He called the Y's demolition “a good Winter project.”

“We were told last week, we were told (there would be) funds in the budget for demolition in the budget for next year if no RFP,” Councillor Swanson said.

Council also voted in favour of terminating the lease agreement with the YMCA of Moose Jaw effective July 15, 2019.

Additionally they voted to immediately turn off natural gas and water to the former Y building – heating of Natatorium will continue.

The City will maintain insurance coverage.

“I do believe the right decision was made here tonight,” Councillor Dawn Luhning said.

Resident Michel Labonte spoke in favour of keeping the former YMCA building and repurposing it.

No final decision was made as to the future of the former YMCA building and will likely occur at budget time.

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