|People signed up to join the newly opened Germantown Y last Saturday.|
Closed for two years because of damage caused by a burst sprinkler pipe, the former YMCA of Germantown – now called the Germantown Y – celebrated its grand reopening this past Saturday
The ceremony also marked the end of a two-year period during which the Y lost its national charter, suffered layoffs, reorganized its board of directors, faced lawsuits – one settled, one not – and carried out extensive renovations.
“Basically, we cleaned things up,” said director Maurice Walls. “The board of directors, with its vision and the help of volunteers, made it possible.”
“Fortunately,” said board president Jim Foster, “our newly constructed board of directors included people with backgrounds in things like finance, contracting and building. We became our own project managers. And through prudent judicious use of funds and a lot of volunteer work we were able to reopen.”
“It’s always good to have a recreational and educational facility in our community,” said State Rep. Rosita Youngblood (D-198).
In addition to repairing flood damage caused by the burst pipe in July 2008 that ultimately led to the Y’s closing, locker rooms, multi-purpose rooms and the basketball court have been upgraded, and a number of cosmetic, as well as unseen improvements, like regrouting the swimming pool and installing a new pump and drain system, have also been made, according to Foster.
The racquetball courts, weight room and steam/sauna room remain closed until phase two of the project is complete, which should be sometime in the next three months, Foster said, noting that no new funds were required to make reopening efforts a reality.
“We want to upgrade and test the systems before we bring them back online,” Foster added.
Kids and adult programs, Y dance and aerobic classes and leagues will begin October 1, according to Walls.
“We anticipate we’ll have to build those areas back up,” he said. “We’re not thinking everyone who was here before is going to come back. We are going to do everything we can to bring everyone back as fast as we can.”
A number of individuals who were laid off, including the membership director and senior programming director have been rehired, according to Walls. He said the aquatic, fitness and membership staff will be composed of some individuals who worked at the former YMCA before it closed in the fall of 2009.
Legal issues linger
According to Foster, it was more mismanagement by former board members who faced a complicated situation after the flood and were “unable to make prudent decisions and kind of closed up the place and walked away,” than flood damage that led to the Y’s closing.
He said the mismanagement occurred in 2008-2009, before the board decided to close the Y, when the issue of how to pay for the cost of repairs caused by flood damage had to be settled. The previous board hired Philadelphia-based Funari Public Adjusters to serve as an intermediary between Y board members and its insurance company, AIG. That turned into a debate over the cost of repairs and who was responsible for what, and what damage had in fact been caused by the flood and what was simple wear and tear.
When the new board was formed in August 2009 after a movement from within, its members found that Funari was charging the Y a 35 percent commission for its work, a rate, according to Foster, that was well beyond industry standards. The members of the new board took issue with that rate, which led to litigation that has been settled in the past 90 days, he said.
Still unsettled, is an $86,000 lawsuit against the Y filed by Jan Rubin Associates (JRA), a firm the Y worked with through its men’s residence program, which was unaffected by the flood and has remained open through the two-year period. Foster said Y board members have filed a countersuit “because we felt that party was paid money they were not entitled to.”
It remains to be seen if the Y will be able to reclaim its charter from the YMCA of the USA.
“We would embrace getting our charter back,” Walls said, pointing out that the Y offers close to the same amount of services and programs it offered when it closed and will continue to expand. “But that is really governed by participation.”