Months after voters reject bond measure, Lynden decides what's next for its YMCA building

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 3, 2013 

LYNDENY

Swimming instructor Vitaliy Bondarchuk helps Aiden Dodd, 3, jump into the water, while Magnum Wanderscheid , 3, waits his turn during swimming lessons at the Lynden YMCA , Thursday, June 27, 2013. Improvements in the the air and heating system and roof will cost $2 million.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

LYNDEN - Months after voters rejected a $9.5 million bond to renovate Delft Square to house a new YMCA, the city is looking at short-term fixes for the existing YMCA building and considering what to do about other major repairs - with the price tag totaling about $2.1 million if all of the work were done.

"It won't be all at once. It will be bite-size chunks over a few years," said Lynden Mayor Scott Korthuis.

The YMCA building at 100 Drayton St. is owned and maintained by the city, while the Whatcom Family YMCA provides the activities.

Work is being done as the YMCA is expected to be in that building for at least five years, perhaps 10, Korthuis said.

"The YMCA board is willing to work with the city to keep the programs going," said Margaret Curtis, board president for Whatcom Family YMCA. "We're interested in meeting the needs of people. Where we go from here, we'll have to work out together."

When they went before voters, bond supporters said the building had extensive problems, including mold, a gymnasium that was too small, a locker room that needed remodeling, inadequate air conditioning, and numerous issues with the swimming pool.

The short-term fixes will deal with some of the shortcomings and will cost about $83,000.

They entail putting in new doors for the men's and women's locker rooms, replacing the leaking roof over the pool and locker room area, and repairing leaking coils in the dehumidification system.

"Those are pretty immediate safety concerns," Public Works Director Steve Banham said of the metal doors that are rusting.

The $60,000 roof work requires budget approval by the City Council. Some of the short-term projects will begin in the coming months, but whether the roof work begins this summer depends on the OK from the council as well as the installation of a new executive director for Whatcom Family YMCA.

One big-ticket item is the swimming pool, where needs that include repairing the heating system and circulation machinery, as well as replacing the walls and lighting, carry an estimated cost of a little more than $1 million.

As city leaders work on the next steps, they are weighing budget priorities combined with just how much should be spent on an old building.

"From a budget perspective, we don't have a lot of money we can put in on an annual basis," Banham said. "We don't have $2 million lying around that we can invest in that building."

One issue for Whatcom Family YMCA is that the existing building doesn't have the space to meet its needs. That includes space for people to sit and watch in the gym, which places limitations on its youth program; a weight room that's too small; and room to offer an aerobics program.

Without room to grow, generating revenue is tougher.

Banham likened the considerations of fixing up the building to repairing a 1960 car. When you're done, it's vintage but it doesn't have airbags and other features of a modern vehicle.

"That's been a challenge for council and the decision makers," he said. "Are we happy with that as the final outcome?"

Reach KIE RELYEA at kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2234.

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