DUANESBURG — Schenectady County took the first step in purchasing the shuttered Duanesburg YMCA with plans to donate the property to the Duanesburg Central School District, which hopes to once again turn the facility into a community hub.
County lawmakers on Tuesday approved a resolution to authorizing the purchase of the 26,276-square-foot facility that sits on 28.61 acres of property at 221 Victoria Drive in the village of Delanson using $1.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds. The Duanesburg Board of Education must still vote to accept the donation.
Anthony Jasenski, chairman of the Schenectady County Legislature, said the county still does not have a final agreement in place with the district, noting that a number of issues still need to be worked out before the transaction moves forward, including determining how future maintenance costs would be covered to operate the facility in a way that would not burden taxpayers.
“We certainly don’t want to burden the taxpayers,” said Jasenski, who said the goal is operate the facility on a revenue-neutral basis.
Originally constructed in 2009, the Duanesburg YMCA permanently closed earlier this year amid financial straits brought on by declining membership after the organization was forced to shutter its doors in early 2020 due to the onset of the pandemic. The Duanesburg facility never reopened.
Duanesburg School Superintendent James Niedermeier said the loss of the center has been a major blow to the community, which, prior to the pandemic, hundreds of relied on for wellness programs and used as community hub. The Y has continued to provide childcare services, including after school programming, in the area despite the closure.
The facility features a five-lane swimming pool, a fitness center, pickleball and tennis courts, a commercial kitchen and outdoor play equipment.
Niedermeier said efforts were made to reopen the facility, but when it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, the district began looking into acquiring the property last year, reaching out to county officials about potential assistance, in the hopes of growing existing opportunity and creating new programs.
“As we were doing our research, we didn’t think it was going to happen. There were some things that were falling into place and not others,” he said. “We were nearing the end of our exploration and weighing other options when the county just reached out just sort of out of nowhere.”
Niedermeier said acquiring the property is a “unique opportunity” for the district, which has been weighing a capital project in order to expand its universal pre-K program and upgrade its gym facilities — a potentially costly proposition.
Still, Niedermeier noted that a number of details must still be worked out, including how the district will pay to operate and maintain the new facility and determining how exactly the center would be used. It’s unclear when the Board of Education will vote on whether to accept the donation should the transaction move forward.
He released a letter to district parents this past Saturday — a day after the county announced plans to potentially buy and donate the facility — seeking to ease concerns about the acquisition.
“Planning is still very much in the beginning stages for this project,” the letter reads. “The Board of Education has not accepted this donation yet and there are many steps that need to occur before the facility is able to open its doors once again.”
On Tuesday, Niedermeier again said he understands why some in the community may be skeptical about the deal, but said the district wouldn’t do anything that would put a burden on taxpayers. Instead, he said, the facility would be paid for by forming a series of partnerships with community organizations.
“We don’t have any illusion that we are going to be able to make up any revenue through taxing people,” he said. “This is going to have to be done through strategic partnerships, grant writing and other methods.”
Schenectady County Attorney Chris Gardener, who drafted the proposal, said the building was recently appraised at $3 million and the cost to construct a similar structure today would cost around $15 million.
He said the property offers a number of opportunities that could help offset future maintenance costs, and, if done correctly, could have no impact for future tax payers.
“We believe it’s a viable project,” Gardner said.
Several community members came out in support of the community center, including Anne Adams, who said she would be willing to purchase a membership in order to help support the center’s reopening. Others, however, said they were concerned about future maintenance costs and the potential increase on taxes.
“What is the cost impact? Can we make this thing run or is this going to become a burden for us,” said resident William Park, who said the county should have completed a cost analysis before voting to purchase the property.
Niedermeier said the district would partner with an outside organization to help run the fitness center. The hope is to offer the same programing that the Y once did in order to generate revenue. He added the gym would also allow student athletes an opportunity to train, and envisions a scenario where parents use the facility while their children attend practice.
In addition, the district would also expand its universal pre-K program, which currently has a waiting list of 15, Niedermeier said. The expanded program would clear the way for additional state aid.
“There are very few childcare opportunities in this area, so to be able to expand those options would be great,” he said.
Neidermeier also believes there are opportunities to partner with neighboring school districts, BOCES and area colleges in order to increase programming, including those focused on job training and adult education.
“We would never have the opportunity to build something like this,” he said.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.