RICHMOND — Officials from the Ocean Community YMCA were in Richmond Wednesday pitching a new facility that would replace the Arcadia branch and also serve as the new Richmond community and recreation center.
Ocean State YMCA President and Chief Executive Officer Maureen Fitzgerald told members of the Community Center Study Committee that her organization is looking for a parcel of land between 4 and 5 acres to build a large facility. She proposed that the town’s newly-purchased, 5-acre property on Richmond Townhouse Road would be the perfect size and location for such a project.
“The best location is Richmond,” Fitzgerald told the committee. “[Route] 138 is the best location, so that’s why we’ve really been focusing on property in this area.”
Fitzgerald said the organization was currently in negotiations for another unnamed property in the town, and Wood River Health Services had also expressed an interest in donating land near the center’s Hope Valley headquarters, but the organization’s preference was to remain in or near the center of Richmond.
“We want to stay in this community if we can identify land, and I think it would be better for everyone to be in this location,” she said.
The new YMCA facility, which would cost approximately $5.5 million, would include a wellness center, a gymnasium, and in the second phase of the project, a swimming pool. In return for donating the land, for which the town paid $200,000, residents, including the town’s underserved senior population, would have access to a large, modern facility that the town would not have to pay to operate or maintain.
Fitzgerald pointed to the YMCA’s experience in fundraising, its track record in managing large facilities and its national scope as additional reasons why the town should consider a collaboration.
The committee was urged to consider the proposal without undue delay, since the YMCA is anxious to move out of the cramped Arcadia building it is now renting.
“We now are in the ready position to go forward,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s the top priority of the association. It’s a top priority of mine, and the board. We’re going to do it. We would prefer to do it in Richmond because it would be more beneficial to the Richmond community and the YMCA.
“We would prefer not to pay for land. I know that you have some land that you’re looking at. I think it could be an excellent opportunity for all of us to work together for the community of Richmond and the surrounding communities.”
Committee Vice Chairwoman Robin Woodmansee asked what Richmond residents would receive for their investment of the donated land.
“I think they’re going to want to see something in return, because they are investing in this project,” she said. “The land is owned by them. So what other things have been done?”
Fitzgerald said that membership fees could possibly be reduced.
“It all depends on how the deal is structured, so I don’t want to promise anything, but there’s been a reduction in fee for one to two years for residents of that community,” she said. “Everything’s negotiable. We, as a Y, need to make sure that we can operate the Y on a yearly basis in the black.”
The committee will complete its research and report back to the council by the end of the year. One of the most important components of the group’s mandate is to determine the type of facility residents want. A questionnaire is now being designed and will be sent to residents in the coming weeks.
The YMCA proposal will likely be one of the options the committee will present in the questionnaire to residents, and later, to the Town Council, which will make the final decision.