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YMCA, CMHS ponder projects pairing

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By Mike Wright

INVERNESS — A medical wellness center needs a pool. A YMCA has a pool. 

A wellness center requires rehabilitation exercise equipment. A YMCA has exercise equipment.

A wellness center needs classroom space for public educational programs. A YMCA has classroom space.

With the matching needs apparent, organizers of two privately funded projects are thinking of combining efforts, building a new Citrus Memorial Health System wellness center with a new YMCA planned for County Road 486 near Pine Ridge. For CMHS, it would mean having the blessing from 800 contributors to a capital campaign that raised $2.7 million to build a wellness center at its Allen Ridge facility. For the YMCA, it means condensing a $5 million fundraising campaign into 18 months to meet the hospital’s wish to have the wellness center built sooner rather than later.

Fundraising organizations within the YMCA and CMHS Foundation Board of Directors have met the past two months, discussing the idea of merging projects, said Gerry Mulligan, Chronicle publisher and co-chairman of the YMCA capital committee.

The YMCA has 18 acres of donated property on C.R. 486 for a facility. Its programs, which attract about 1,000 participants, are now scattered at locations across the county, Mulligan said. He said the capital campaign has not yet begun in earnest.

However, a proposed agreement would require YMCA to raise $5 million in 18 months, with the organization providing fundraising updates to the hospital every six months. Should the agreement follow through, the hospital would add $2 million it privately raised to the project and lease 4,000 square feet of the new facility over a lengthy period, such as 30 years, hospital attorney Clark Stillwell said.

Hospital foundation members had several questions and seemed cool to the idea Monday night during their monthly meeting. Board members said they weren’t sure about giving up a project on property they own to spend the same amount on a building they would then lease.

Board member Sandy Chadwick also said donors to the CMHS wellness campaign were told the project would be at the Allen Ridge medical complex.

“For years, we have been raising money for a project that was well defined,” Chadwick said.

CMHS Chief Executive Officer Ryan Beaty agreed.

“Site specific, no doubt about it,” he said.

Beaty said he was concerned with the Allen Ridge project’s long-term need.

“What would happen if it just couldn’t take off the ground?” he said.

Mulligan, who did not attend Monday’s meeting, said Tuesday there could be a significant cost advantage to CMHS by merging its wellness center with the YMCA. For one, the YMCA has many of the amenities — pool, exercise equipment, classrooms — a wellness center would need. And the two agencies would share a facility rather than be separated by only a mile or two.

He said the public would be better served with one center.

“Don’t waste money building your little palaces all over the place,” he said.

Stillwell, a member of the YMCA fundraising committee, told board members he cannot negotiate on their behalf because of a conflict of interest. Negotiating on the hospital’s behalf will be Inverness attorney Megan Fitzpatrick, whose late brother Shawn was a member of the foundation’s fundraising committee.

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.