By Chevon T. Baccus APR
Executive Editor 

City's YMCA Purchase Hits Snag, Causing Further Delay


Last updated 1/22/2020 at 3:06pm

Lake Wales Family YMCA pool

For the second time this month the city's plans to purchase the Lake Wales Family YMCA hit a roadblock that pushed the whole deal further down the road.

Commissioners at their Jan. 20 meeting approved the purchase of the property for $565,000, but that sale will only go forward if both sides can agree to the lease and operating agreement with the YMCA of West Central Florida. In December they agreed to borrow $900,000 for the purchase, related costs and renovations.

It's taken city officials and the boards of the two YMCAs involved nearly two years to get close to an agreement. The initial postponement came Jan. 7 when Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson said he hadn't had adequate time to review the documents. Gibson, an attorney, at the Jan. 20 meeting pointed out incomplete verbiage in the lease agreement as well as his concerns about whether the legal language in some cases was adequate to protect the city from liability.

Gibson agreed to review and recommend stronger language, asking City Attorney Chuck Galloway to provide the underlying case law and research. According to his invoices Galloway spent 36 hours during 2019 working on the YMCA deal and contracts, charging the city a little under $5,800 for his work. The YMCA had two lawyers working on the project, and there was significant back and forth on the documents. At one point the two sides were working from two different versions of the documents.

All five commissioners support the purchase and leasing back the facility to the YMCA of West Central Florida to continue their key programs, including childcare and camps, aquatics, youth and adult sports and wellness. The purchase clears the debt owed by the Lake Wales Family YMCA and ensures that the West Central/Lakeland YMCA group can afford to continue operating its local programs.

The average of two appraisals valued the 25,790-square-foot recreation facility and swimming pool on 9.45 acres of property at more than $2.2 million, so the city considers the deal a bargain. The purchase also will set Y memberships at half price for city residents and allow even nonmembers who live within the city limits continued access to the Y swimming pool.

Lake Wales Family YMCA

"We're going to remain patient and diligent. My hope is we can put this to bed at some point," said Kirk Eich, executive director and CEO of the West Central Y. "We are still very excited about the future."

Eich said he fully understands the importance of clarifying the lease language and making sure it is a good sound agreement for both parties. Any new language the city comes up with will need to be reviewed by the Y's attorney and approved by its board.

Under the proposed operating agreement the city will pay the Y $147,000 this budget year, which includes the $36,000 annual cost of opening the pool to city residents, plus funds to subsidize the half-price memberships for city residents and cover some additional programs, including a possible swim lesson program for young children. For future years the subsidies are capped at $161,000.


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