TWIN FALLS — After struggling to stay afloat financially while operating the city pool, the Magic Valley YMCA is backing out.
The city will take over operations and programming April 1, city manager Travis Rothweiler said Tuesday.
The announcement comes as the YMCA continues to work on recovering from major financial issues that surfaced last year.
Community members can expect operations for the Locust Street pool to continue uninterrupted, said interim Y chief executive officer Andy Barry.
The Y will work with the city during the transition, he said, adding they’re parting on good terms.
The bottom line: “We were losing money” operating the pool, Barry said. Maintenance costs were problematic and with older equipment, “we told (the city) we can’t handle that unknown.”
The city contracts with the Magic Valley YMCA — and pays the nonprofit $120,000 per year — to operate the pool. The current contract was slated to expire in August 2018.
The city’s parks and recreation department will oversee pool operations for the remainder of the contract.
Then, the city will look at its options — whether to continue operating the pool or seek another group to contract with.
“We do not have a lot of answers,” Rothweiler said. “We have lots of questions.”
In early February, the Y requested to have the agreement reopened for negotiations. The Twin Falls City Council voted to allow that process.
The Y asked for additional funding for the pool, Rothweiler said: $50,000 on top of the existing contract amount.
Plus, the Y asked the city to take over the repair and maintenance costs.
That would have meant about a $60,000 total increase, Rothweiler said.
The city asked the Y for audited financial statements, but the nonprofit wasn’t able to provide documentation within the needed time frame, he said.
The city’s decision to take over operations revolves around its responsibility to taxpayer money, Rothweiler said. “We cannot just hand over additional money without validation that it’s truly needed.”
Rothweiler said he found out Friday the Y planned to write a letter seeking to be released from the contract March 31. He drafted an official response Tuesday.
“I’m sure the request made by the Y was difficult,” he said.
They’ll start working on a transition plan later this week.
Rothweiler said he knows there will be questions from community members about pool passes, memberships, swim lessons and the Y’s existing commitments to community groups such as the Magic Valley Marlins.
“Our goal is to provide a continuity of service and as soft of a landing as we can,” he said.
Rothweiler said he believes the city will spend between $185,000 and $225,000 per year operating the pool.
But that’s based on “a lot of incomplete information” using the Y’s revenue estimates, he added.
The city will spend the next year to 18 months familiarizing itself with the operations of the pool, he said, and “evaluating whether we want to continue to be in the pool business.”
Parks and recreation director Wendy Davis has extensive experience with operating pools, Rothweiler said, is not afraid of a challenge.
The Y will still be a valuable partner with the city, Rothweiler said, to continue to create a healthy community.
Earlier this year, Y board members discovered former CEO Gary Ettenger — who retired in March 2016 — used hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations earmarked for specific projects for general operating expenses.
City officials have been in conversations with the Y “on-and-off since the initial issues presented themselves,” Rothweiler said.
The Y’s national parent group placed the local group on probation. And the Idaho Attorney General’s Office wrapped up an investigation in September 2016, saying it has reason to believe the Y violated Idaho’s charitable trust laws.
The Y closed its Canyon Rim branch on Pole Line Road in October 2016 and the property is for sale.
By Nov. 1, employees and services for members were consolidated to the Elizabeth Street branch.
There aren’t any updates about the Canyon Rim property, Barry said Tuesday, and it still hasn’t been sold.
The local nonprofit has paid off its back taxes using an interest-free loan. It also paid 2016 national YMCA dues and is in a payment plan for past dues. And it’s no longer on probation.
The pool at the Elizabeth Street branch — which has been in disrepair and sitting vacant for about four years — is slated to reopen in early March.