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Vernon Hills village, park district eye YMCA facility

 A closed sign Central Lake YMCA VernHills Tuesday. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media

A closed sign at the Central Lake YMCA in Vernon Hills on Tuesday. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 17, 2012 1:58AM

The financially strapped Central Lakes YMCA in Vernon Hills might become a village-owned, park district-operated fitness center.

Park commissioners will meet Monday to review YMCA financial data and decide how the YMCA building could be used, if at all, board President David Doerhoefer said.

Meanwhile, Village Manager Mike Allison announced the Village Board will gather for a special meeting Tuesday. Village trustees also will review the same information and potentially buy the property. An intergovernmental agreement with the park district would follow.

Allison and village trustees leaned more toward village ownership than park district ownership.

During the Oct. 16 Village Board meeting, trustees were amending their strategic plan when Mayor Roger Byrne and Trustee Cindy Hebda suggested turning the Larry Laschen Community Center, the former village hall that was leased to the park district in 2002, into a senior center if the YMCA property is purchased.

Byrne said he had read that the YMCA was valued at $4.2 million, but Allison clarified, saying the YMCA owes approximately $6 million collectively on both its Vernon Hills and Waukegan buildings.

An hour-long executive session followed the regular board meeting. Then trustees decided to request more information from the YMCA and reconvene Tuesday.

Allison later said the YMCA has a strong presence worth preserving, and that an offer could be approved at Tuesday’s meeting.

“What we need to decide is if it’s the YMCA that people like or the dynamics of the building,” Allison said. “If we purchase the building, one of those elements will be gone. We must be sure that remaining element is what our residents want.”

If the park district took control of the building and programming, either through direct purchase or leasing from the village, Doerhoefer said the day care, after-school programs and pool would remain focal points.

Certain rooms and venues, like dance rooms and basketball courts, would be consolidated with those offered at other park facilities to create free space for new programming.

“The YMCA would become an additional asset of the park district,” Doerhoefer said. “We would keep everything else open and our administrators would stay in the Laschen Community Center.”

Lake County Family YMCA have scheduled the closure of the Central Lake YMCA and the Waukegan branches and needs to raise at least $5 million to prevent the doors from closing for good Oct. 31.

Central Lake YMCA was constructed in 2001. Allison said if Vernon Hills buys the structure, he doesn’t anticipate using bonds.

“We would probably pull that money out of our reserve fund,” Allison said.

Vernon Hills has more than $22 million in reserve.

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