YMCA closing Crescent City branch as CEO, COO exit

There are no plans to close Gainesville or Starke facilities, but money is tight


Published: Monday, January 31, 2011 at 7:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 12:13 a.m.

The North Central Florida YMCA is closing its Crescent City branch and has parted ways with its chief executive and chief operating officers amid financial struggles.

Chief Executive Officer Shawn Patch and Chief Operating Officer Mark Johnson worked their last days there on Wednesday, said Chip Koval, chairman of the North Central Florida YMCA Board of Directors. Koval declined to say Monday whether they had been fired or resigned.



He said employees and members of the Crescent City branch were given 45 days notice of its closure, which a facility employee said is scheduled to happen on Feb. 28. He said there are no plans to close Gainesville or Starke facilities or to terminate any programs at this time, but he acknowledged financial problems.

"We are not in a strong financial situation," he said. "We need to evaluate and figure out the best way to move forward."

Patch and Johnson could not be reached for comment. In an e-mail announcing his departure, Johnson attributed it to a schism with the board over cuts and a break with plans to construct a YMCA facility on Archer Road in southwest Gainesville.

"Although we have significantly reduced variable expenses over the past 18 months, and enhanced our internal efficiency, our board members have decided to explore a plan of drastic and immediate contraction of the organization; a contraction both in terms of variable expenses and in terms of programs/branches," he wrote. "This calls into question the future of many of our branches, our programs, and our remaining staff members."

Patch made about $134,000 in salary and another $30,000 in benefits in 2009, according to the most recent tax records. He had been with the group since the late 1990s. Johnson's salary and employment history were unavailable late Monday.

Their departures come as the group has been unable to build the southwest Gainesville facility and less than two years after it was briefly unable to make payroll and closed a Lake City branch.

Koval said an interim CEO, Harold Cook, will take over on Feb. 7, but the chief operating officer position will be left open. Cook had been CEO of the Louisville, Ky., YMCA and interim CEO of YMCA organizations in other cities. A search for a permanent CEO will begin soon, Koval said.

The North Central Florida YMCA offers child care, fitness and sports programs, and summer camps in Alachua County and seven other counties in the region. The nonprofit organization operates the Northwood and McGurn Family YMCA facilities in Gainesville, the Crescent City and Starke branches and programs in other communities within its region.

Gainesville developer Ken McGurn, whose family contributed the building for the northwest Gainesville center that was named in its honor, expressed concern about the facility's future.

"If they're reducing the service level, that would be a shame because it's so needed in that area," he said.

The North Central Florida YMCA lost about $864,000 from 2007 to 2009, about 60 percent of that in 2009 alone, according to its recent tax filings. Its revenue before expenses dropped to about $3.2 million in 2009 from $5.8 million in 2006.

The organization had planned to construct a 55,000-square-foot complex at Archer Road west of Tower Road, which would be one of the largest YMCA buildings in Florida. Site work started in 2008, and officials had said construction would be finished in 2009.

Today, there are only sports fields, restrooms and concessions on the site. Koval said the recession made it difficult to obtain a loan and conduct fundraising to finance construction.

The group also has lost local government funding over the past few years, including contracts to operate Poe Springs Park and recreation programs for Alachua County. It closed its Lake City branch in 2009.

That same year, the group failed to pay its 200 employees in the region. At the time, Johnson attributed the problem to United Way funding cuts, declining memberships and donations, and a one-time retirement fund payout.

The group ended up obtaining a $200,000 line of credit from Sun State Federal Credit Union to make payroll. Koval said the YMCA has made payroll ever since.

United Way of North Central Florida CEO Karen Bricklemyer said her group provided a small part of YMCA funding in the past, but that a new two-year funding cycle is just beginning. She said a drop in donations and increase in need have made this a difficult time for all nonprofits.

"When we all get back to normal, it's not going to be the normal it used to be," she said.

Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or nathan.crabbe@gvillesun.com.

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