By Scott Smith
The Howard County commissioners offered a huge boost to the Kokomo Family YMCA on Monday, announcing a surprise $500,000 gift to the Y’s capital campaign and accelerating the Y’s movement toward a new downtown facility.
“I’m thrilled and honored to be here,” said Y director Dave Dubois, who was on hand with board members to acknowledge the commissioners’ planned donation. “The Y is thrilled and honored to move forward.”
Commissioner Paul Wyman said the plan is to budget $100,000 in economic development income tax funds toward the project in each of the next five years, and called the Y’s planned $15 million project a “perfect” economic development opportunity.
The announcement comes in the wake of the city of Kokomo’s major commitment to the project, expected to include site acquisition and the construction of a new downtown parking garage next to the planned new Y.
The building is slated for the space currently occupied by the vacant former Button Dodge property, which sits along Union Street between the current Y and City Hall.
Three current members of the Howard County Council — Joe Pencek, John Roberts and Les Ellison — were on hand at the commissioners’ meeting Monday to voice approval of the planned county contribution, and Wyman said Councilman Jeff Stout is also backing the contribution.
“As a county resident and as a downtown businessperson, I’ve got a dog in both these fights,” Community First Bank president Mike Stegall said. “This is a judicious use of EDIT money. I couldn’t think of a better use of these funds. This is something that will live for centuries.”
Dubois, a history buff, spoke of the Y’s 140-year presence in Howard County, and said from the first, the Y has served Howard County “from edge to edge, north and south and east and west.”
“From the beginning, it was true then and it’s true today, we have members from all the towns and all the hamlets all over the county,” Dubois said.
Each year, the Y sponsors about 1,400 individuals, offering free and discounted memberships and entries into programs, a $250,000 annual reinvestment into the community, he added.
“If you took the Y name off the project, and someone just said ‘I want to make a $15 million investment in your community,’ that’s huge,” Wyman said.
Wyman said the money will be subject to the county’s budget process each year, starting with next year’s budget. The commissioners and the council have a tacit agreement that the council has a vote on any EDIT appropriations, but it appears that for now, a majority of the council is on board with the donation. Earlier this year, all seven individual council members pledged $500 apiece of their own money toward the project.
“We think this will be something that will bring everyone else together to make it a reality sooner rather than later,” Wyman said.
Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at email@example.com