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YMCA director optimistic about funding

by James Fisher

REGIONAL writer

ELKINS -- Despite having her funding requests rejected by county commissioners, and being told to come back later by city council members, Randolph County YMCA Executive Director Jill Stalnaker is confident that the two entities will eventually come through with financial assistance.

"I've not given up on the county commission," she said recently. "I knew when I went before them that there wasn't any money, but I'm hoping they can come through with either money or some consideration for future budgets."

County Commissioner Ira Coberly said he would like to see the other commissioners agree to find at least a couple thousand dollars for the YMCA, and said that Commission President Willard Herron has said if the city agrees to give assistance, then so will the county.

"They are too valuable an asset to the city and the county to not support," Coberly said. "If the city gives them some money, I think it's safe to say we'll come up with some as well."

Stalnaker requested city funds at the last council meeting Nov. 2, said Elkins Mayor Jimmy Hammond. The matter was referred to the council's finance committee for further review, although Hammond is confident that after the committee meets with Stalnaker to determine how much funding the group needs, council will be supportive.

"I felt it was just too short of notice to approve that quickly. I didn't feel that we had enough time to make the decision," Hammond said. "I really think we should help them and I think the majority of council will agree. We're very lucky in Elkins because not many communities this size have such an active YMCA."

The YMCA is experiencing budgetary shortfalls because of declining population and therefore membership fees, Stalnaker said. The five main sources of income for the 92-year-old facility are memberships, program fees, United Way funding, private donations and an endowment.

"I won't say it will never happen, but it would take a considerable growth in population for the Y to be self-supported strictly from memberships and programs," she said.

Stalnaker said the biggest hit the YMCA has taken is in memberships of people aged 25-45, a decline that she forecasted earlier this year. Adding to the financial strains are ever-rising utility costs and risk-management issues the YMCA was forced to address over the past few years.

Stalnaker said the nearly century-old building needed upgrades and additions in several key areas, including safety stripping on the floors, special lighting in some areas, new exhaust fans and specialized doors with lighted emergency exit signs.

"It doesn't sound like much, but it all really adds up," she said.

Despite the diminishing population and membership rolls, Stalnaker said the YMCA remains very busy and is used quite extensively by the residents of the county.

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com.

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