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updated: 10/24/2012 12:06 PM

Village, park district offer $1.4 million as fast track solution to keep Vernon Hills YMCA open

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  • The village of Vernon Hills and Vernon Hills Park District have offered $1.4 million for the Central Lake YMCA building and grounds, 700 Lakeview Parkway.

      The village of Vernon Hills and Vernon Hills Park District have offered $1.4 million for the Central Lake YMCA building and grounds, 700 Lakeview Parkway.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer


Vernon Hills village and park district officials have offered $1.4 million to buy the Central Lake YMCA facility, but whether it will be enough to keep the doors open past Oct. 31 remains to be seen.

The village board and park commissioners agreed separately after a lengthy special closed session Tuesday night to co-author a "letter of interest" to the YMCA. The offer is for the building at grounds at 700 Lakeview Parkway in the village, and like any commercial real estate transaction, would be subject to inspections, conditions that may arise or other factors.

"It's done in good faith to keep this facility operating," Mayor Roger Byrne said. "It's a very good recreational amenity but the day care is an important component to the families who have children.

Hal Katz, interim CEO of Lake County Family YMCA, which operates facilities in Vernon Hills and Waukegan, said the YMCA board and the bank holding the single loan on the two properties would have to discuss the offer and make a decision by Thursday. The park district has its regularly scheduled meeting that night.

"We recognize speed is of the essence," Katz said.

Lake County Family YMCA announced in late September the two facilities would close Oct. 31 because of financial difficulties. The day care portion of the operation, which with the indoor pool is of key interest to the park district, would remain open until Nov. 21. YMCA officials have said the organization has a debt of $6 million and an operating deficit of $800,000 per year.

The offer is well below the $2.25 million "broker opinion" the YMCA received on the Vernon Hills property, which includes 9 acres and a 30,000-square-foot building.

Katz wouldn't speculate on its acceptability but during the meeting said those overseeing the YMCA operations are flexible.

"The bank has repeatedly expressed we bring them an option and they'll let us know if that was something they would agree to," Katz told the combined boards before the closed session. "I think there is a real opportunity for the village and the park district to have an asset that is of value to the community."

As envisioned, the village would front the money for the facilities. The park district would operate them and repay the village in some fashion, such as a lease agreement. An intergovernmental agreement to be worked out later between the village and park district would lay out the specific details of the arrangement.

"There is no tangible commitment other than we are interested," village Trustee Jim Schultz said.

The village and park district have acted quickly, holding three special sessions on a possible YMCA deal. The concern is the closer to the deadline without a tentative solution in place the more members will leave, making it harder to run on at least a break-even basis.

"We're rushing into this because of the time frames that have been dictated to us," Village Manager Mike Allison said before the closed session. "You don't possess the information to make a good decision at this point."

The cost of fixing or replacing the roof, for example, are among those concerns. Katz said the village could walk away from the deal if the numbers didn't work out.

Byrne was at the forefront of an effort to bring the YMCA to the village in the late 1990s. He cautioned that while the facility is valuable to the community, it would not be a deal done at any price.

"It's not our money we're going to spend," he said. "It's the community's money and that's the bottom line."

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