DeKalb County set to acquire South DeKalb YMCA for $4.9 million

Jennifer Ffrench-Parker | 4/11/2014, 6:30 a.m.
The South DeKalb YMCA could soon become the property of DeKalb County.
The YMCA will use the $4.95 million purchase price to renovate the 39,000-square-foot South DeKalb Y and add 10,000 square feet of space.

The South DeKalb YMCA could soon become the property of DeKalb County.

The Board of Commissioners is set to vote April 22 on a proposal to acquire the YMCA, which sits on 18 acres at 2526 Snapfinger Road in Decatur, for $4.95 million and lease it back to the YMCA of Metro Atlanta for $1 a year for up to 50 years.

Under the proposed agreement, the county would enter into intergovernmental arrangement with the DeKalb Development Authority to operate the facility as a recreation site for up to 50 years. The authority would then enter into a long-term lease with the YMCA to improve, renovate and operate the South DeKalb YMCA facility.

The YMCA will spend the $4.95 million it receives from the sale of the property on the renovation and provide all furniture, fixtures and equipment for the South DeKalb YMCA. It would pay the Development Authority $10,000 for legal fees and $6,187 for its expenses.

Eston Hood, the Metro Atlanta Y’s chief operating officer, says this type of public-private partnership makes good business sense.

“We sell our land and reinvest and renovate and upgrade the YMCA,” he said. “We build more capacity. We can reach 1,000 more folks. We continue to run it. We add more programs for seniors. We respond to the obesity crisis, and we keep kids in structured activities. This really becomes a win, win and win for everybody.”

Under the agreement, the YMCA will renovate the 39,000-square-foot South DeKalb YMCA, add 10,000 square feet of new space for aerobics, a glass viewing area for parents to watch their kids take swimming lessons, family locker rooms, a spacious entrance atrium lobby, and new office space.

Hood said upgrades to the 18-acre property will include a new pavilion and water splash area for summer campers, new trails and new fencing.

Once the BOC approves the contract, Hood said construction could start by August or September and will take eight to 10 months to complete.

The South DeKalb Y currently employs 150 full- and part-time workers, which Hood said will double with the expansion.

DeKalb District 3 Commissioner Larry Johnson, who is co-sponsoring the YMCA purchase with District 7 Commissioner Stan Watson, said the county’s purchase of the South DeKalb YMCA ties in with its support of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity.

“It’s going to create more wellness in the county,” he said. “There are a lot of people with chronic diseases. We will have more space to serve more people. It will give us a state-of-the-art center to focus on wellness for seniors and youth.”

The county proposes to use 2001 and 2006 Greenspace bond funds to make the purchase.

Under the plan, it will use $2 million from 2001 countywide acquisition funds, $2 million from countywide acquisition funds from the 2006 bond funds, $651,842 from District 7, and $307,250 from District 3.

In its agreement with the Development Authority, the Metro Atlanta YMCA will operate the South DeKalb YMCA on a triple-net lease basis, providing for all operating expenses of the South DeKalb facility and contributing all of the furniture, fixtures and equipment.

It will use the proceeds from the sale to design, develop and construct additional improvements and renovate the existing South DeKalb facility. It is also responsible for all repairs and maintenance of the swimming pool, the grounds, buildings and structures.

“The YMCA shall be solely responsible for all of the operational, maintenance and management expenses of the South DeKalb facility, with no operating financial assistance from the county or the authority,” the proposed contract says.

The contract also calls for a waiver of the $100 to $150 joining fees for residents of ZIP codes 30032, 30034 and 30035 for the first 10 years, starting with the commencement date of the lease. It also calls for early program registration times, special program offerings and times for seniors, and financial assistance for families in need.

The county also will be able to use the facility for four free events a year, and the authority, twice a year.

If the YMCA is removed as operator by the county, it would receive a pro rata refund of the $4.95 million spent on renovations. If the county wants to sell to a third party, the Y would get right of first refusal.