Even taking into account the $90,000 GMYMCA owes the county, it did save the county about $107,000 during the two years it ran Parks & Rec.
Perhaps the fact that it was saving county taxpayers money, plus the Y’s reputation, partially explains why Kelley kept trying to work with the organization’s management despite mounting debt.
It started when the contract was first negotiated. The Y asked that the county keep the utilities in its name “until they could become an established branch in our community and have the ability to pay security deposits and transfer those accounts into their name,” Kelley said.
The county paid the utility bills and sent invoices to GMYMCA for reimbursement.
When the invoices went unpaid for several months, Kelley said, he called a meeting between himself, county Finance Director Allison Martin and GMYMCA Executive Director Rich Gallagher. At that meeting he and Martin were told about some financial issues the Y was experiencing.
“It was an operational issue, not a policy issue. We had a contract and we were trying to make it work,” Kelley said, “We came us with a plan to reduce the county’s payment to the Y by withholding $8,000 a month to recoup some of the money we had paid for utilities until they caught up.”
Kelley said the Board of Commissioners “were aware of the issues surrounding the [GMYMCA] ... they were individually briefed by staff ...”
But time went on, and the Y did not catch up. It kept getting further behind. It takes about $10,000 per month to cover the cost of utilities at Parks & Rec.
Kelley again met with Gallagher, who asked for the county’s continued understanding, and that they would work out a repayment plan.
Since the amount due the county had continued to rise, Kelley decided to withhold $12,000 per month from the Y’s contract in an effort to catch up and the Y promised to present the county with a repayment plan to begin in the spring of 2012.
“They managed to make two small payments and that was it,” Kelley said. “We kept calling, emailing ... I hate it, but it wasn’t until July that I began to see the real deal, that they weren’t going to pay. We finally we told them they would have to go before the board. We told him, no more.”
Although Gallagher had been told to appear at a work session, he never showed up, Kelley said.
Kelley said he discussed the situation with the commissioners one-on-one. “They fully knew what was going on with the Y.”
The Lumpkin County Board of Management was also aware of the financial issues, Kelley said, and tried to work on the county’s behalf to get accurate and up to date information.
Each time Kelley and Martin met with Gallagher, Martin said, he was offered the option to exercise a clause in the contract that would allow him to increase the Y’s budget. He always declined, she said.
In November Gallagher and Board of Directors member Bill Frances appeared before the board and assured them the Y’s financial problems were over. They also announced Marvin Martin as the new interim director.
When Martin went to work, be found several unpaid bills from local vendors amounting to over $30,000. It was obvious the Y’s problems were not over.
In January Gallagher and Frances once again faced the board and were told bluntly the BOC had lost its trust in the people running the organization.
In February, the county chose not to renew the Y’s contract and to resume operation of Parks & Rec.
Kelley and his staff came up with a budget that will require a $99,863 budget amendment, since the 2013 budget was already passed before the changeover.
“This dollar amount is separate from the amount owed to the county [for utilities]. [The Y] has acknowledged to county staff, the BOC and the citizens that it owes a debt to the county and has promised to fulfill that obligation once their financing is in order,” Kelley said. “We made an effort to make this work. I felt for a long time ... the Y was the Y, they’re credible. We continue to believe the YMCA is a great organization committed to family values and helping build healthy and successful communities.”
Gallagher did not respond to several attempts to contact him for this article.