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Caroline approves $4 million YMCA deal
Following King George's earlier decision, Caroline board strikes agreement to build Y near Ladysmith

Date published: 6/17/2005

By JEFF BRANSCOME

The YMCA will probably break ground on a recreation center in Caroline next year, thanks to money supplied by a handful of developers.

The county Board of Supervisors, voting 3-1 last night, approved an agreement with the Rappahannock Area YMCA that calls for developers' proffers to fund building the 50,000-square-foot facility in Ladysmith.

The YMCA estimates the facility, to be built on 20 acres near U.S. 1 and State Route 604, will cost between $4 million and $4.5 million.

Supervisors also discussed Caroline joining the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, which runs the Virginia Railway Express commuter-train system.

The selling point is that Caroline stands to gain up to $5 million a year in fuel-tax money dedicated to its transportation needs. Only about $65,000 of that would go to the PRTC to subsidize the VRE and pay for the rail service's administration.

Supervisors expressed doubt that any other alternative exists to help fund the county's transportation needs. Caroline would have to raise its real-estate tax rate by 40 percent in order to generate the revenue promised by the PRTC, county finance director John Sieg said.

On the YMCA proposal, Supervisor Maxie Rozell cast the lone dissenting vote. During a recess, Rozell said he supports the YMCA, but would prefer that it be built in a more central location--closer to places like Dawn and Sparta.

Also, Rozell wants to verify whether the county will have enough proffer money to pay for new schools, roads, and fire and police stations, before considering the YMCA.

"I wasn't clear that we had enough proffers to pay for it," he said.

But Supervisor Wayne Acors said Caroline's children deserve the YMCA, a facility that Stafford and Spotsylvania residents have had for years.

"I've always felt that young people in Caroline should have the same opportunities our neighboring counties have," Acors said.

Over the next four years, the county expects to collect nearly $8 million in proffers, about half of which will be used to finance construction of the YMCA.

The developers of Ladysmith Village, a 2,850-home subdivision, will proffer about $2.8 million--plus the land, water and sewer lines--for the Y.

According to Caroline's agreement with the YMCA, the Y will break ground once the county pays $1.6 million. Caroline is supposed to pay off its balance by 2009.

In the meantime, YMCA officials will borrow money to pay for construction costs.

Barney Reiley, CEO of Rappahannock Area Family YMCA Inc., said in a telephone interview that he expects groundbreaking to occur in August 2006.

Under the agreement, the YMCA must be finished by December 2010 or the county can reclaim the property.

Reiley said he hopes to ignite a campaign to raise $1 million. Half of that money would go toward the YMCA's construction.

"At the end of essentially three years, we'll have a debt-free facility," Reiley said.

The YMCA will pay for operation and maintenance of the building, as well as any new additions.

"I think the citizens of King George and Caroline owe a lot to the supervisors for trying to improve the quality of life by being very proactive and really making these things happen," Reiley said.

Caroline's current agreement with the YMCA is in sharp contrast to last year's proposal by the Y, which called for the county to issue around $4 million in bonds to finance the deal.

In May, the King George supervisors approved a similar agreement to build a YMCA in that county. Unlike Caroline, King George will borrow $4.5 million to construct the facility.

Reiley said he expects the YMCAs in Caroline and King George to open about the same time.

After voting last night for the YMCA, the Board of Supervisors switched gears and discussed commuter rail.

The supervisors assured county residents at the meeting, some of whom opposed the county's joining the PRTC, that they will consider all options before making a decision.

"In the final analysis, I think the board is going to say we have to do what's best for the citizens of Caroline County," Acors said.

The board probably won't decide the issue this summer, he said.

To reach JEFF BRANSCOME:540/374-5402 jbranscome@freelancestar.com

Date published: 6/17/2005