County gives YMCA helping hand

The Winnebago County Board voted unanimously at its July 13 meeting to help finance the YMCA of Rock River Valley’s renovation and construction projects.

Board members approved the sale and issuance of $8 million in bonds that would pay for partial renovation of the YMCA’s downtown Rockford location and construction of a branch along Orth Road in Loves Park.

Finance Committee Chairman Tim Simms (R-14) stressed that “we are just helping the community…helping the youth,” after reading the resolution summary. The summary noted some of the money would go toward land acquisition.

County Board member Pete MacKay (R-5) asked whether the land acquisition would lead to ieminent domain issues. MacKay was told no, since the YMCA plans to acquire land owned by the Rockford Park District. One government entity can’t take another entity’s land by eminent domain.

Ray Howard, YMCA of Rock River Valley executive director, noted the money would go toward rehabbing some locker and shower rooms at the YMCA’s downtown location. It would also fund the construction of a new branch, which would be next to Rockford Park District’s Sportscore 2.

Howard stressed, “The taxpayers are not on the hook for repayment of the bonds,” and only his organization and its supporters are responsible for servicing the bonds.

Selling bonds would give the YMCA the money up front. According to Howard, though the YMCA of Rock River Valley is a tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization, it has no bonding authority. He added Winnebago County gave the organization access to tax-exempt bonds.

Howard explained that the organization has letters of credit to back up the bonds, while pledges and other income sources will help pay off the bonds.

According to Howard, it’s the second time the YMCA, which secured $3 million in bonds in 1996, has had this arrangement with the county. The 1996 bond proceeds helped finance the renovation of the YMCA’s downtown Rockford location.

From the July 19-25, 2006, issue

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