YMCA Leaders Hold Contentious Town Hall
Members and YMCA leaders squared off over the proposed Philadelphia/Freedom Valley YMCA merger.
Board members and YMCA leadership held a town hall at the Spring Valley YMCA on Monday night to discuss the proposed merger between Freedom Valley YMCAs and Philadephia YMCAs.
Freedom Valley's chief volunteer officer Sanford Lipstein started off the meeting by telling the approximately 200 members in attendance that the board hasn't done a very good job of getting information out to the members regarding the merger.
Lipstein gave a presentation on what the merger will and will not mean for the membership.
Lipstein said that there will be no reciprocity for use of the outdoor pools at Freedom Valley's branches, nor will Philadelphia members be allowed to sign up for fitness classes. Freedom Valley members will not be allowed to register for free classes at Philadelphia branches (they will be able to attend paid classes).
The benefits, Lipstein said, include better risk management, more purchasing power for the merged YMCAs in insurance and supply buying, and a larger presence among the national YMCA's policy-making team.
Once the meeting was opened up for a question and answer period, the mood turned occasionally hostile.
Several members of the audience complained that they are being required to attend a vote, which is scheduled for 7pm Thursday evening at Chadwick's Restaurant in Audubon.
Lipstein said that Pennsylvania state law governing non-profit organizations required the vote to be in person and that a majority of the votes cast by those who attend will decide whether the merger passes or fails.
"If you wish to vote, find a way to get there," Lipstein told the audience.
Multiple attendees said they are concerned about the validity of votes and feel that the YMCA is trying to "pull one over" on the membership.
Lipstein said that everyone will be asked to sign in and that it's likely the vote will be done by ballot. If the vote is done by ballot, Lipstein said, people voting will be required to provide their name and address so that their membership can be verified.
One audience member asked if the YMCA would refund membership fees for members who aren't happy with the merger.
Lipstein said that post-merger, if someone isn't happy and has paid in advance, they could request a refund of their unused membership time.
At several points during the question-and-answer session, the discussion threatened to turn into a shouting match.
A few audience members said they don't like how fast the merger is happening and felt that the vote should be delayed, but Lipstein refused to consider delaying.
One unhappy audience member said he was concerned the management was "hiding information."
"We can't see how you got here," he said.
Lipstein did say that the merger has to pass in both regions. Philadelphia's membership is also voting on Thursday at the YMCA office in Center City.
"Both sides have to agree," Lipstein said.