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Valley-wide survey examines YMCA support

Survey results of the Snoqualmie Valley show that the planned YMCA at the Snoqualmie Community Center, which goes before voters for bond support on Nov. 4, might just get the kind of local membership support it needs to be successful.

In the run-up to a community center partnership with the city of Snoqualmie, the YMCA ordered a survey of 400 random telephone interviews in Snoqualmie, as well as Fall City, North Bend and Preston. Survey results, now available on the city's Web site, www.ci.snoqualmie.wa.us, show that 65 percent of respondents said they believe membership in a local YMCA would appeal to them. According to the Y, the typical community rate of respondents that would like Y membership runs about 54 percent.

At the time of the poll, 24 percent of the Snoqualmie respondents said they would "definitely" vote in favor of the bond, while 34 percent said they would "probably" vote to support the center.

The November bond requires a 60-percent supermajority to pass.

Bob Gilbertson, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Snoqualmie, said that the Valley's high proportion of young families bodes well for the new center. Gilbertson said that strong market penetration in the Valley, the likelihood of support for after-school programs at a Snoqualmie YMCA, as well as an annual $100,000 subsidy for operations from the city, should make a local Y feasible.

Based on results of the survey and conservative assumptions, the new community center would initially attract about 1,000 members. Of those, about a third would come from Snoqualmie, while others would come from nearby communities.

Solid support?

"I think it shows solid support in Snoqualmie, solid support in the surrounding communities," said Snoqualmie resident Sean Sundwall. A member of the citizen support group for the bond, and a past school bond booster, Sundwall said he's always been leery of the disconnect between new residents and longtime residents of the Valley. Sundwall believes the survey shows that support for the Y isn't just a Snoqualmie Ridge phenomenon.

"One of the first things that struck me was broad support from outside the city limits," he said. "It tells me there is a great need for that."

While the Y plan has drawn fire from some residents as potential competition for Valley fitness centers, such as the Snoqualmie Ridge Athletic Club that it would neighbor, Sundwall said there's little comparison.

"There's no private institution that offers the suite of programming, services and facilities that the YMCA offers," Sundwall said.

Some 30 percent of responders already belong to a health club or rec center, and about 76 percent of those responders said they are satisfied with their health club membership. Five percent of responders are already members of a YMCA.

Desired programs

Facilities of greatest interest to all survey takers included an indoor lap, recreation and multi-purpose pool, cardiovascular equipment, free weights and an aerobics studio.

Programs of greatest interest to families include youth sports, after-school programs for 5- to 12-year-olds, youth competitive swimming and youth fitness.

Other general programs of interest included swimming lessons, pilates and yoga dance, health cooking, art classes and women's programs.

Respondents were asked whether they would join based on a presented sliding-scale fee structure, in which monthly fees to use the Y were based on household income.

At the top of the scale, households that annually earn $70,000 or more pay $93 per month in fees, while households with less than $10,000 in income pay $19 per month.

The main reason Valley residents did not find membership appealing is that they lack information about what the Y offers.

The survey was conducted by the Florida company Phil Balducci and Associates.

Upcoming vote

In the run-up to the November vote, the city of Snoqualmie has been receiving endorsements for the bond for several area agencies, and the council is exploring ways to make the bond's tax burden easier to swallow.

The $10 million bond would seek 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in the city, over a 20-year period, to build and equip the center, which would be operated by the YMCA. To use the Y, residents would pay a monthly fee and an initial joining fee. Gilbertson discussed the possibility of waiving the joining fee for Snoqualmie residents at a recent town forum.

Earlier this month, the Snoqualmie City Council approved a memo of understanding with the YMCA for operation and maintenance of the center.

The memorandum is a prelude to a formal agreement with the YMCA, which would come if and when the $10 million bond passes muster with voters in November.

The preliminary agreement spells out that the city will design, construct and finance the community center on its nine-acre site on Snoqualmie Ridge, estimated at a total cost of $14 million. The city will pay the YMCA $100,000 per year to subsidize operations. After the first three years, those funds would come solely from casino mitigation money paid to the city by the Snoqualmie Tribe. That arrangement would last for another 17 years.

The city would have casualty insurance on the building and the grounds, while the YMCA would carry the insurance liability for any issues having to do with the Y's programs and operations at the center.

Council members have discussed postponing the tax on the bond, in light of the shaky national economy, so that payments would not be due until 2010.

Phone bank

Bond backers will be calling up Snoqualmie residents and asking for support for the measure, starting Monday, Oct. 27, through Wednesday, Oct. 29. On Nov. 3, they plan one more phone bank session to connect with polls voters.

Polls open 7 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4, and close at 8 p.m.

Local poll sites include Snoqualmie Elementary School, 39801 S.E. Park St., and the Church on the Ridge, 35131 S.E. Douglas St.

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