Lower Paxton Township supervisors are partnering with the Harrisburg Area YMCA to re-open the Friendship Community Center as the new Friendship YMCA.
The cash-strapped center, funded by taxpayers’ dollars, has been closed since Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 mitigation orders took effect in March. For the past seven months, local leaders have been trying to figure out a financially viable way to reopen it.
The proposed draft agreement will be discussed at an Oct. 13 Lower Paxton Township supervisors’ workshop meeting. YMCA representatives will be at the meeting. A vote is scheduled to take place by the board at its Oct. 20 business meeting. If approved, the Friendship YMCA could open in early December.
The draft agreement announced Friday allows the township to own the property, making a portion of the building available to the Harrisburg Area YMCA for a nominal sum, according to Lower Paxton Township supervisors.
“This proposal is a win-win-win,” said Lowman Henry, chairman of the Lower Paxton Township Board of supervisors. “The residents of our township will be able to join a first-class local facility with membership privileges at YMCAs across the nation, taxpayers will be relieved of the skyrocketing costs of operating and maintaining the center, and the Harrisburg YMCA will acquire a branch that completes its geographic coverage of the Harrisburg metro area.”
As part of the agreement, the YMCA will bring “programs, expertise, and nonprofit fundraising abilities to both operate and to make substantial improvements to the facility,” the township reported. The township will also continue to operate the senior center, which occupies a portion of the building.
“The opportunity for the YMCA to partner with Lower Paxton Township on opening the Friendship Center is a natural fit for our mutual goals,” said Richard Curl, CEO of the Harrisburg Area YMCA. “Our shared mission of community engagement, wellness, and child development leads to a natural transition that will benefit both entities and provide new opportunities for Township residents.”
COVID-19 keeps Friendship Center closed for summer, about 50 can’t go back to work
Taxpayers have spent $17.6 million on the center throughout the past two decades. Moody’s Investors Service reported in May increased taxpayer support for the center could affect the township’s bond rating that would cause supervisors to increase Lower Paxton’s property tax rate.
Board of supervisors meetings begin at 7 p.m. and are held at the Township Municipal Center, 425 Prince Street. The township is following the state’s COVID-19 restrictions attendance limit of 20 percent normal capacity.
Residents wishing to speak or ask questions will be asked to move into an overflow room when they are done speaking to allow others to have an opportunity to participate.
The meetings can be viewed live on Channel 21 (Comcast subscribers) and Channel 22 (Verizon Fios subscribers.) Meeting video is also posted within a week on YouTube.