Town to work with PRYMCA through time of transition
DOVER-FOXCROFT — In October the Piscataquis Regional YMCA board of directors made changes to the organization, including voting to eliminate the executive director position with Board Chair Janet Sawyer heading the facility in the interim while options for long-term sustainability and leadership are explored over the next six to 12 months. The directors said at the time the moves were made to secure the local YMCA’s financial health and ongoing stability.
Sawyer, Board Treasurer Tim Gallagher and Past President Jason Brochu spoke to the Dover-Foxcroft selectmen on Nov. 29 to discuss the PRYMCA changes and plans for the future.
Sawyer offered a personal story to begin the session. She said while walking her dog recently on High Street she was able to look down the hill and see much of downtown Dover-Foxcroft, thinking of the various businesses and organizations located in the community. “There isn’t one who hasn’t gone through some kind of struggle in the last few years,” she said.
The board chair said the local YMCA “is an institution that has been through struggles for years.”
During a follow-up interview Sayer said the PRYMCA annual budget is approximately $600,000. “It’s been running very close to break even and we are a non-profit,” she said, with finances at times falling in both the red and the black.
“After years of financial ups and downs, it’s time to think creatively and cooperatively,” Sawyer said. “In rural areas like ours it’s hard to find experienced organizational leadership and we are exploring options that may reach beyond Piscataquis County. We want the Y to be the best it can be and we want the PRYMCA to be the best it can be.”
“We have a lot more hard decisions to make because it’s vitally important we keep this institution in this community,” Sawyer told the selectmen.
“It’s critical we take a look at what we are doing and how we do it,” Sawyer said, saying the directors are determined to find how the YMCA can best serve the youth, seniors and families in the region in the most sustainable way possible.
She said over the next six to 12 months PRYMCA officials will be looking “to see where we are and where we are going to be in the long term.”
Sawyer then asked the selectmen if they would consider serving on the PRYMCA board of directors. “We need a voice from the town on this board because we have to move forward because we have to make some hard decisions,” she said.
Gallagher said the PRYMCA is not in danger of closing but changes need to be made to make sure the operations run effectively. “I will say this, I have got a selfish interest in having the Y around another 12 years because I have got boys involved in swimming,” he said.
“The problem is the town’s just not big enough to support it,” Brochu said, mentioning there is only so much money that can be raised and perhaps the community’s contribution to the PRYMCA could be increased.
“It’s always missing a little bit, we are just hoping to get a little more support to fill those holes we have.”
When asked, Brochu said the majority of PRYMCA members are Dover-Foxcroft residents.
Selectperson Jane Conroy wondered if the PRYMCA directors had approached the county. “With an economic development theme it seems to blend right in,” she said.
Mentioning an approach beyond Dover-Foxcroft, Sawyer said earlier in the fall the PRYMCA opened its Greenville Child Care Center to fill a need for this service in the Moosehead Lake region of the county and expand the organization’s outreach.
Town Manager Jack Clukey, who is past member of the PRYMCA board of directors, said, “The YMCA is the recreation program of the town, we have really looked to the Y for those recreation options for all ages. It has been a priority and I think it always will be.”
In the 2016-17 municipal budget, $24,000 is allotted to the PRYMCA.
Select Vice Chair Cindy Freeman Cyr said, “Jason I think the timing of that request is perfect because we are just starting our budget.”
Clukey then asked if the PRYMCA directors could get their budget request to the town within the next four weeks as work on developing the 2017-18 spending plan will commence in January with a first version to be presented to the selectmen in February.
The selectmen wondered if Scott Taylor, the chair of the board’s recreation committee who was unable to attend the Nov. 29 meeting, would be willing to serve as the town representative on the PRYMCA board of directors.
“So we have some work to do,” Freeman Cyr said, saying checking with Taylor is the first order of business.
Selectman Ernie Thomas, who is a former chair of the PRYMCA board of directors, said there has been innuendo around the community about the PRYMCA after the recent changes. “The town knows you are going to be around a while, it’s possibly a hiccup but you have been through a lot of those before,” he said.