Posted on August 14, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Tuesday, Aug 14 at 10:41 PM
TAYLOR, Texas -- Some Taylor residents feel betrayed by City Hall after they voted not to fund a new multi-million dollar YMCA center, only to have their elected officials pay for it anyway.
In May 2010, the city put the decision to borrow money to pay for the recreation center on the ballot. At that time, 62 percent of voters voted "no." In the next few weeks, the city council could hire a contractor to build the $3.3 million facility.
“It just seems the recreation center is not going to benefit the whole city; it’s just gonna benefit a few,” said Rebecca Cuba, a Taylor resident who voted not to fund the center.
Cuba and other residents say the money should have been used for its intended purpose -- road maintenance. An engineering study recently conducted for the city discovered 52 percent of all the city’s streets are in poor condition. The city owns 105 miles of roads.
“And not just poor, but failing,” says Taylor City Councilman Chris Osborn.
Cuba believes the city council failed her when it transferred 2.4 million tax dollars, originally intended for road maintenance, to build the future YMCA recreation center.
“It makes you mad. It’s like, 'Why do I go vote?'" said Cuba.
Osborn says after hearing from YMCA supporters, he feels citizens will benefit from the center.
“Perhaps it’s a bit selfish. I’m a single parent. I’m interested in those programs that are there to serve single mothers, single fathers,” argues Osborn.
If built, the city will own the building, but the YMCA will manage the facility and receive revenue from membership dues and programs.
After searching through YMCA financial records, the KVUE Defenders learned that three of the five council members have ties to the organization.
Mayor Donald Hill’s wife is a current YMCA board member and Taylor’s first YMCA president.
Council Member Jessee Ancira served on YMCA’s board in 2010 and 2011, but resigned from the board after elected to the city council.
Councilman Osborn resigned from his position as a YMCA board member four months before voting to fund the recreation center.
Taylor’s ethics policy stats “public office not to be used for personal gain.”
“I’ve never had any income come from the YMCA. Technically, there wasn’t a conflict,” Osborn told KVUE News in his Georgetown law office.
City hall watchdog Joe Niazer doesn’t see it that way.
"If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” said Niazer.
He doesn’t want taxpayers to subsidize YMCA’s cost of doing business.
“They should be able to do it with their resources. They shouldn’t expect the taxpayers to fund their facility," argues Niazer.
Over the phone, Mayor Hill and Councilman Ancira say their ties to the YMCA didn’t influence their decision, and that they’ve never gained personally from their vote.
If built and the YMCA doesn’t increase its membership, the City would have to pay out about $270,000 extra a year to keep it running.
1. Road maintenance Study : http://www.taylortx.gov/index.aspx?nid=515