Members meet to discuss fate of Melrose YMCA on Thursday - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Members meet to discuss fate of Melrose YMCA

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WALNUT HILLS, OH ( FOX19) -

An all-member meeting was held Thursday evening at the Bush Recreation to discuss the future of the Melrose YMCA.

After the operating hours of the Melrose YMCA branch in Walnut Hills were cut in half, members argued that the shorter hours would make visiting their local branch difficult and worried it would eventually close altogether.

"There's a level of frustration that's just boiling over in me," said YMCA member Sheila Benner. "It's a marvelous, marvelous facility, it's a family Y and its exactly what's needed in the inner city and the urban core."

Officials with Cincinnati YMCA say the schedule changes at the Melrose location were needed to help close a $300,000 budget deficit.

Last week, city leaders revealed a plan to keep the YMCA open for two more years in addition to restoring more hours for members.

In the deal, the Melrose YMCA would get up to $200,000 from the City of Cincinnati. With those added funds, the Melrose branch would add 20 hours back per week through April 2015.

The deal, however, was rejected.

"We did not accept that offer again because it didn't give us what we asked," said Melrose YMCA Board Chair, Sam Malone. "It was not a reflection of the resolution that city council had gave us which was the total restoration of those hours."

Board member Victoria Evans explained how funding was being diverted away from the Melrose YMCA.

"They used our demographics and our needs based children to request that funding," explained Evans. "But when it comes back into the YMCA its not distributed to us."

Malone and other board members say they were surprised to find out that YMCA CEO, Sandy Walker, had dissolved the board.

"The greater Cincinnati YMCA is not recognizing the Melrose board and I'm very offended by that and I'm very disturbed by that fact because it does not allow our voice to be heard," argued Malone.  

FOX19 reached out to YMCA Association CEO Sandy Walker. Walker declined to comment on camera.

Walker's communication director Kathy Lehr did attend the membership meeting and also declined to comment on camera.  However, Lehr did provide the following written statement.

"No one in senior management at the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati has been in negotiations with Sam Malone about the Melrose YMCA.  We have not heard from the community in response to the proposal from the Y regarding Melrose."

Lehr told FOX19 reporters that the Melrose YMCA Board was being merged with the Board of the Carl Linder Branch. However, Lehr had no details on exactly how that was to be done.

Melrose YMCA members plan to be out in the Walnut Hills area on March 16 going door-to-door to heighten community awareness about the fate of their neighborhood YMCA.

Board chair Sam Malone has filed a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General's office alleging that money that should have gone to the Melrose YMCA was diverted to suburban YMCAs.

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