by Susan Mikula Campbell
Programs such as Silver Sneakers exercise for seniors and day care for children were on the table Monday as the Wheatfield Town Board met with representatives of the YWCA Niagara and the YMCA Buffalo Niagara.
The town is looking at proposals from the two agencies that would provide programs in the town's Youth Center and gym, located on the Town Hall campus, during hours that the facility is not currently in use, primarily daytime hours on weekdays.
"Our board is always looking for ways in which we can improve the services we offer for our residents, but always with an eye on costs. That includes the use of town-owned recreation facilities," said Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe. "Several weeks ago we put out a public request for proposal to both the YMCA and YWCA, as well as any other organization which may wish to use the Youth Center for the benefit of Wheatfield residents. We received proposals from both the YMCA and YWCA but nobody else."
No action on either proposal was taken at Monday's special meeting, the board preferring to discuss the two proposals further and to seek public comment before making any decisions. The next regular meeting of the Town Board is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13.
"Note that both proposals come at no cost to the taxpayers, that any costs will be borne by those families who choose to participate in these terrific programs," Cliffe said. "I'm pleased to state that, being involved with both of these highly successful agencies is a real win-win for Wheatfield residents."
The proposals submitted by the three-person teams from the YWCA and YMCA were similar in many ways. Both teams said their proposals were just starting points and that more programs could be added once they had a chance to determine what Wheatfield residents' interests were and what programs they wanted.
"We just wanted to start with the basics that we know could be successful," said Greg Larson, executive director of the Niagara Falls Family YMCA.
The YMCA, which already operates a summer day camp out of the Wheatfield Youth Center, is looking at using the facility September through June from noon to 3 p.m. Sundays, 6:30 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, plus noon to 1 p.m. Wednesdays. Initial programs would include school-age child care, preschool-age programming and adult fitness classes.
The YWCA would operate programs Mondays to Fridays, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m., as well as provide school-age child care and summer day camp from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sports programs would include preschool soccer, preschool fun hour and elementary sports. Adult activities would include Zumba Gold and a walking club.
Deborah Rogalski, YWCA director of children's services, said many people think all day camp programs are the same, but the YWCA camp is different in that there is no set schedule a child has to follow. For instance, at the camp she operates in Lockport, they might schedule four activities such as body painting, playing Frisbee dodge, auditions for a talent show and storytelling at the same time. The YWCA camp allows children to do what they want as long as they want. "They are in charge of their choices," she said.
Town Board members seemed interested in adding the extra programs for the Youth Center, with some cautions. Questions were asked about charging higher rates for non-residents and about responsibility for cleaning up the facility and its bathrooms after use. There were also comments about not infringing on programs that might be offered by other groups or individuals in the town.
Councilman Gil Doucet said he was especially interested in seeing that physical activity programs for senior citizens be included in any plan the board adopts. Currently, a number of programs and meetings for seniors are held at the Wheatfield Community Center.
"Our seniors are real active. They're always looking for new things to participate in, especially in the winter," he said.
Councilman Larry Helwig pointed out that with either the YWCA or the YMCA the town will have to look at acquiring more storage space, possibly placing storage units outside behind the current Youth Center building.
Town Recreation Director Ed Sturgeon said key points that ought to be included in any contract with the agencies should include a formal agreement on cleaning, provisions for overlap times when Y programs were ending and town programs were beginning, and regulations on sharing of equipment and what happens if town equipment is broken or damaged. He also was concerned about matching Y non-resident fees with the current town non-resident fee of $40.
Sturgeon also presented the board with the current schedule for the Youth Center's gym, showing that it is busy after 5:30 p.m. on weekdays with cheerleading, basketball, soccer, volleyball and exercise groups and all day Saturdays and afternoons on Sundays with soccer and basketball teams.
Whatever agreement for the Youth Center the town wants to adopt, the clock is ticking, John Murray, president and CEO of the YMCA Buffalo Niagara, warned. To start school-age programs for children alone, it will take about 60 days to get needed permits from the state, he said.