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Posted on: October 9, 2020

Lower Paxton Supervisors, Harrisburg Area YMCA Outline Plans to Re-Open Friendship Center

The Friendship Center

Supervisors hope to reach deal as soon as possible.

October 9, 2020:
The Lower Paxton Township Board of Supervisors and the Harrisburg Area YMCA today announced a proposal to provide space within the Friendship Community Center to the YMCA which would operate the center as part of the world-renowned non-profit organization’s network of facilities that serves more than 10,000 communities across the U.S.

The financially struggling, taxpayer-supported Friendship Community Center was closed in March under Gov. Wolf’s COVID-19 mitigation orders. Since then supervisors have been working to re-open the center in a fiscally responsible manner that would lessen the burden on township taxpayers. As a result, representatives of the township and the Harrisburg Area YMCA have drafted an agreement that would re-open the center as the new Friendship YMCA.

Under the draft plan, the township would continue to own the property and make available a portion of the building to the Harrisburg Area YMCA for a nominal sum. The YMCA would then bring its programs, expertise, and nonprofit fundraising abilities to both operate and to make substantial improvements to the facility. Lower Paxton Township will continue to operate the senior center that occupies a portion of the building.

“This proposal is a win-win-win,” said Lowman Henry, Chairman of the Lower Paxton Township Board of supervisors. “The residents of our township will be able to join a first-class local facility with membership privileges at YMCAs across the nation, taxpayers will be relieved of the skyrocketing costs of operating and maintaining the center, and the Harrisburg YMCA will acquire a branch that completes its geographic coverage of the Harrisburg metro area.”

The YMCA is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 21 million men, women and children to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. This wide network of resources would become available to members of the Friendship YMCA, along with the ability to attend all branches of the Harrisburg Area YMCA.

“The opportunity for the YMCA to partner with Lower Paxton Township on opening the Friendship Center is a natural fit for our mutual goals,” said Richard Curl, CEO of the Harrisburg Area YMCA. “Our shared mission of community engagement, wellness, and child development lead to a natural transition that will benefit both entities and provide new opportunities for Township residents.”

Friendship Center Taxpayer Impact Since 1999

Since 1999, taxpayers have expended $17.6 million on the Friendship Community Center and those costs have escalated substantially in recent years. In May, Moody’s Investors Service listed increased taxpayer support for the center as a factor that could lead to a downgrade of the township’s bond rating, which would increase borrowing costs leading to property tax hikes.

Details of this proposed new venture will be discussed at the October 13th workshop meeting of the township Board of Supervisors, with representatives of the YMCA on hand to answer questions. The proposed agreement will then be slated for a vote by the board at its October 20th business meeting. If approved, the Friendship YMCA could open in early December.

Board of Supervisor meetings begin at 7 p.m. at the Township Municipal Center, 425 Prince Street. State COVID-19 restrictions limit attendance to 20 percent of normal capacity so citizens wishing to speak or ask questions will be asked to move into an overflow room when they are done speaking so others will have the opportunity to participate. The meetings can be viewed live on Channel 21 (Comcast subscribers) and Channel 22 (Verizon Fios subscribers.) Meeting video is also posted within a week on YouTube.

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