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Decatur YMCA plans realistic?
Community leaders encouraged after reviewing results of residents survey

By Paul Huggins 340-2395

A YMCA in Decatur appears more likely to some community leaders after they saw results of a November marketing study Monday.

John Seymour, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, said the meeting alleviated some concerns about duplicating services.

"I think we do a really good job with our youth programs, and I don't want to step on any toes of the dedicated people doing that. But it sounds like we're not," he said.

"The part that impressed me was they seem to know what we need — more swimming and stuff like that," Seymour said.

About 50 representatives from the business community, service agencies and public offices attended a 75-minute review of the study conducted by Triangle 2 Partners of Nashville.

The survey included 412 residents in Decatur, Hartselle and Athens and asked about their interest in joining a YMCA and what services and facilities they would want a YMCA to provide.

A lot of interest

The survey showed about 17 percent of those questioned had "a lot of interest" in joining a YMCA. That was after they heard the membership costs of $48 monthly for individuals and $68 for families.

The percentage of those highly interested was nearly twice the national average of 9 percent.

Lori Swann of Triangle 2 she said she "was thrilled" how that 17 percent looked when applied to Decatur's population of target households.

The 17 percent applied to 31,127 households in Decatur, Hartselle and Athens that had an income of at least $35,000 resulted in 5,136 potential members. Factor in a small percentage of those who had some interest in joining, and Triangle 2 projects the Decatur YMCA could have a membership of 4,600 to 6,100 after two years.

That's much higher than the 3,000 membership units at the Southeast YMCA in Huntsville, which has begun expansion plans to ease overcrowding.

"I think the number of people who said they were highly interested was really encouraging," said George Pollitt, executive director of the United Way of Morgan County. "If those people actually joined, that would be a real good base to have a strong YMCA here."

Decatur Youth Services Director Bruce Jones said he felt a Decatur YMCA was more likely than before he attended the meeting. He said he was pleased to hear YMCA offered a lot of youth programs that were not currently offered here.

"I'm for anything that will help and offer more activities for youth," he said.

The survey showed Decatur residents most want an indoor walking/running track, cardiovascular exercise equipment, an indoor pool for recreation and lessons, an outdoor pool for fun and a health/wellness program.

Based on these needs, the YMCA recommends a 40,000-square-foot facility with a $7.4 million price tag. The YMCA would borrow about $2 million to pay for it, so the Decatur area would be responsible for raising $5.5 million.

John Eyster Jr., who is leading the Decatur YMCA steering committee, said the fundraiser would seek pledges for a five-year period, $1.1 million per year.

The steering committee has collected about $23,000 for a second study by Triangle 2 focusing on whether the community can raise $5.5 million.

The committee is identifying community leaders and heads of local businesses and industries for Triangle 2. It will narrow the list to 30 to 40 entities and conduct in-person interviews in April.

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