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YMCA shelves merger proposal

SoVaNow.com / September 26, 2012
After months of wrangling and controversy over a proposed merger, the Mecklenburg County and Halifax/South Boston YMCAs announced Tuesday they would sever ties by Dec. 31, effectively killing the merger plan.

In his first public statement since meeting with the Mecklenburg County YMCA Executive Committee on Monday night, YMCA President and CEO Marcus M. Hargrave said, “We believe it is in the best interest of the members of the YMCA to revisit the consolidation process at a later time. Our communities are too hesitant to engage until certain hurdles can be overcome.”

Hargrave, who has served as director of the Mecklenburg County YMCA on a contract basis, also put Mecklenburg County on notice that “as of Dec. 31, 2012, the YMCA of South Boston/Halifax County will no longer be able to provide consultation services” to Mecklenburg County — something it has done for the past, he noted in a statement.

The Mecklenburg County Board of Directors had scheduled a vote Tuesday night, after press time, on whether to move forward with the merger or shelve the idea.

With Hargrave calling the merger dead, for now, and withdrawing as executive director of the Mecklenburg County YMCA, the Clarksville and Chase City entity faces the challenge of whether to hire a permanent or temporary director, and decide to remain part of the national YMCA or become a community organization, Hargrave noted in the statement. The Mecklenburg organization must also purchase finance and reporting software mandated by YUSA.

Hargrave suggested the reason the two boards agreed to foregoing further merger talks was because of the “current vitriol directed towards volunteers and staff from a select few.” Opponents of the merger, in turn, have expressed their frustrations with what they perceive to be Hargrave’s refusal to fully share information or conduct transparent negotiations.

In his statement, Hargrave lamented the lack of cooperation by what he called a “minority” of Mecklenburg members. He also cited the historic support offered by the Halifax County YMCA when the Mecklenburg group was struggling. “We [the South Boston/Halifax YMCA staff and volunteers] were able to formulate a path forward to address the lack of accurate financial reporting, declining membership, and the absence of community support” under which the Mecklenburg County YMCA was laboring.

Joe Davidson, a vocal opponent of the merger and president of the MCCSC Board, which spearheaded construction of the Enrichment Complex where the Clarksville YMCA is housed, said he “wishes the Halifax YMCA the best of luck. I am looking forward to working with a full time director as an independent YMCA.”

Members of the YMCA Board of Directors were unable to comment on Hargrave’s letter because, as of press time, it had not been presented to or approved by the Board.

While proclaiming the merger a dead issue, Hargrave appeared to hold out hope that talks could resume in the future. “All of the work done by these volunteers, board members, staff, and YUSA resources point towards consolidating as the best solutions for sustaining these organizations.”

Hargrave added, “In moving forward, the Mecklenburg County YMCA must decide whether they want to remain a YMCA or be a community center.”

His statement, signed by the YMCA consolidation task force, reads as follows:

“Since being here in Southside Virginia, the current administration at the YMCA of South Boston/Halifax County has experienced numerous successes around youth development and community engagement. The impact in Halifax County led to other communities asking us to duplicate these services in South Hill, then in Clarksville and Chase City. Management contracts were entered into to provide administrative oversight and program implementation.

“At the Mecklenburg County YMCA, working with the existing volunteers and staff, we were able to formulate a path forward to address the lack of accurate financial reporting, declining membership, and the absence of community support, no financial assistance program, and little focus on youth development. The action plan executed included foreseen challenges such as the inability to meet staff payroll and the need for numerous civic group and government presentations to inform the community the challenges faced by the YMCA. Fortunately, the YMCA of South Boston/Halifax County was able to financially support the Mecklenburg County YMCA during these turbulent times and by designating more staff hours than previously discussed.

“Today, the Mecklenburg County YMCA is a healthy organization, thanks in part to the work of numerous staff and volunteers. All of the work done by these volunteers, board members, staff, and YUSA resources point towards consolidating as the best solutions for sustaining these organizations. Now, even after unprecedented successes at the Mecklenburg County YMCA, we are left with a divisive situation threatening key relationships in both Counties. It’s a very odd place to be considering both have benefited from this collaboration and the majority of individuals want to see this relationship deepen.

“With the current vitriol directed towards volunteers and staff from a select few, it begs the question, is it worth it? Should the minority overrule the majority? Should the majority determine the outcome and deal with the potential fallout? The most important thing is that YMCAs remain a key asset in both communities now and in the future. For this reason, we believe it is in the best interest of the members of the YMCA to revisit the consolidation process at a later time. Our communities are too hesitant to engage until certain hurdles can be overcome.

“In moving forward, the Mecklenburg County YMCA must decide whether they want to remain a YMCA or be a community center, hire a CEO themselves, or request the services of the YMCA of the USA for a CEO search process. As of Dec. 31, 2012, the YMCA of South Boston/Halifax County will no longer be able to provide consultation services.

“Both YMCA Boards of Directors wish each other well. The consolidation process revealed information that will be helpful to both. Utilizing this information will hopefully assist in programs designed for youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.”

Sincerely,
YMCA Consolidation Task Force.





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