The City of Homestead held their Committee of the Whole meeting virtually on Tuesday evening, Oct. 13.
Leading the agenda was a presentation from Sheryl Woods, president and CEO of the YMCA of South Florida.
Woods presented to the full council and the city manager, the YMCA’s plan to renovate the Homestead YMCA located at US1 and Campbell Drive. They are proposing a $10 million dollar renovation of the building, top to bottom, except for the roof and the exterior walls.
The Homestead YMCA has been closed since the onset of the pandemic and has not reopened.
Woods stated that the Homestead YMCA facility and preschool has been running at large deficit for many years. The YMCA lease with the City of Homestead is rent free with the agreement that all upkeep and facility management is up to the YMCA to maintain. The building has been in disrepair for many years, with memberships dwindling from a high of 1200 down to 800 at the beginning of Covid-19 when the facility closed.
The YMCA is proposing a partnership between them, the City of Homestead and Le Jardin who would sublease and run the pre-school facility, contribute capital ($3 million) for the renovation of their area, and pay a substantial lease to the YMCA. With the partnership they are asking for a 20 year lease from the city for the YMCA of South Florida and approval of a 20 year sublease with Le Jardin.
They would also need the City of Homestead to agree to a $2 million investment over a 10 year period.
They intend to fast track the timeline with leases being signed by the end of the year, funding being secured by May 2021, construction starting June 2021, with a completion date of January 2022.
Mayor Losner opened the discussion to councilmembers.
Councilwoman Erica Avila asked why the membership had decreased. Woods mentioned that with a new 24-hour Fitness opening nearby members switched to a facility that is clean and state of the art. She noted that the Homestead YMCA had not received any major renovation to the interior since Hurricane Andrew.
City Manager Cate McCaffrey noted that CDBG funds had been used for some maintenance including to the roof, but agreed the YMCA had not performed a general overhaul.
Vice-Mayor Patricia Fairclough Staggers stated she was having a difficult time imagining where the City could possibly find the $2 million in funding requested.
“It’s like putting a band-aid on a broken leg.” Said Fairclough-Staggers.
Woods said that the decision to completely renovate the building came after the city contributed $175,000 in CDBG funds for renovation of a smaller locker room and its HVAC system. The YMCA was to put up matching funds for the $350,000 renovation. After some discussion the YMCA board felt that another “patch” was not a good use of the money.
“Instead, lets come up with a solution,” noted Woods.
Mayor Steve Losner discussed that the city would need drop dead dates as an obligation of the lease agreements from start to completion. He also noted that if after signing the leases, the YMCA was not able to come up with their funding, the lease would default back to the City, who would then still have a long sublease agreement with Le Jardin. Losner mentioned that perhaps as the City does with the Seminole Theater, they could absorb the utility costs along with a smaller amount of capital to fulfill their $200,000/10-year agreement.
Councilman Stephen Shelley spoke of his long, supportive relationship with the Homestead YMCA for a decade. He noted the significant turnover with executive directors over the last 10 years has hurt their success.
“We asked for them to invest in capital improvements because it was a free lease, and it never happened. I have a hesitancy to invest, given the track record. And given the city’s budget as it is now, should we perhaps at this point look at our other options, “ said Shelley.
Councilman Larry Roth concurred saying, “I have been a supporter and have been on their board but I am very disappointed in the lack of the Y’s ability to invest in a building where they haven’t had to pay rent for many years. Is that the best use for that property? If they stay closed and don’t commit for a few more months and the building keeps deteriorating, well, I don’t know.”
Woods said that we cannot afford to be in Homestead unless we can move these partnerships forward.
Councilman Roth said, “I’m assuming the building didn’t look like this at the beginning of their lease. I didn’t see the commitment. The Y has let the property deteriorate.”
Councilman Sean Fletcher spoke up saying that the renovation price of $188 per square foot is high, and at the same time “I can’t go to my residents and say I need your money to help subsidize a business in the city.”
Mayor Losner told the meeting that giving authorization to negotiate a lease at this point may be “putting the cart before the horse. We should see if it is even doable.
I understand the Y has to stop the bleeding, but we will need to come back and visit this later this month.”
Vice Mayor Fairclough-Staggers offered that she wasn’t sure if they should even have the staff move forward. With the last five meetings working the budget to find funding for the additional police officers and for police body cameras, “Our pencils aren’t just sharpened, they are broken. I just don’t know where the money will come from.”
Mayor Losner called for a vote, and council unanimously agreed to have city staff investigate the allowance for the Le Jardin sublease.
Also on the agenda:
Council approved a new fiber optic connection between City Hall and the Utilities building for $87,500. It had been previously budged with the capital improvement plan.
The purchase of a F-250 utility truck for $35,961.00 for the Electrical Utilities Division. It is replacing a 15 year old vehicle.
Approved a 1% hazard pay agreement for PBA Sergeants, Detectives, Officers and Corrections Officers, from March 1 to December 30, 2020. This is pass-through funding from the federal CARES Act.
Approved renovated plans for the Losner Park Revitalization Project, and awarding a $4,966,590 million contract to West Construction, which will be paid with park impact fees.