By Joanie Morris
Before a packed house on Monday night, Kannapolis City Council members heard details of an alleged affair gone sour ó between the Cabarrus County Department of the Aging and the Kannapolis Branch YMCA.
Only one side was there to tell the tale.
Mike Murphy, director of Aging Services, spoke to members of the council about the needs of Kannapolis seniors for the long- and short-term.
When asked why the LunchPLUS program was no longer meeting at the Kannapolis YMCA ó the contract was an annual contract ó Murphy gave his opinion on the matter.
“We were told they needed the space for other programs,” Murphy told council. “In my opinion, it’s a difference of philosophies between the current administration and the former administration.”
At one time early in negotations and prior to the current YMCA administration, Murphy said the Department of the Aging was asked to purchase memberships for the participants of the LunchPLUS program.
“We could have built a new building for what that would have cost,” Murphy said.
The services for seniors in Cabarrus County are paid for by Cabarrus County, not Kannapolis. However, Murphy did say, “we are looking for some help.”
The lunch program at the YMCA has been in existance since 1999, but Murphy said the program has been in Kannapolis for at least 20 years. The program averaged an estimated 250 seniors a day, with lunch being served and some sort of exercise program being offered. It also served as a social outlet for seniors.
A little over one year ago, Murphy said the program lost the contract with the YMCA and since then, he has been looking for a permanant place in Kannapolis. In the meantime, the program settled in at various churches around the area and eventually combined the program temporarily with the program at the Logan Center in Concord.
Murphy told the council he was looking for two things:
– A short-term solution to get the program back in Kannapolis.
– A long-term place to pick up and fill the void of the closure of the Murdock Senior Center.
So far, he’s talked to 27 churches and one private group about temporarily housing the program.
“We have not been able to find anything that is workable,” Murphy told council Monday night. He did say that two of the churches are looking at the program and will be getting back with him soon, and Councilman Richard Anderson introduced Murphy to the Rev. Curtis Parker, pastor at Central Baptist Church.
“He said he would be glad (to help) but we need to know all the details,” Anderson told Murphy. “I want the two of you to become like glue.”
Any arrangement between Central Baptist Church and the Department of the Aging would be on a temporary basis.
Murphy said there is also a partnership with Rowan County Senior Services to worry about. Since part of Kannapolis is in Rowan County, Rowan County was reimbursing the Department of the Aging for meals for North Kannapolis seniors so they would not have to go up to Salisbury.
Murphy said once a solution is found, “We can move our staff and our program over here tomorrow if needed.”
Anderson told Murphy to do whatever needed to be done to help the seniors in Kannapolis.
“I think it’s a wonderful program,” said Anderson, who admitted that he’s only been to the senior program a couple of times. “I know what it means to each one of you.”
On Tuesday, Ron Davis, CEO of the Kannapolis Branch YMCA, said the annual contract was “so you had an opportunity to discuss it.”
“At the point in time that it was time to discuss it, I pointed out to them (Murphy and Department of the Aging staff) that the YMCA was having to subsidize that program to the tune of $20,000 to $25,000 a year.
“The first thing we discussed was how much money it was costing the YMCA to run their program,” Davis said. The bill came from cleaning the room, hiring instructors to teach senior classes, extra trash dumping and maintenance.
“I don’t know what people had done in the past and why they had subsidized the county’s program to that extent,” said Davis, speaking of past YMCA leadership. “We sat down to discuss that and the space was really the secondary issue. Could we use the space? Yes. It was tied up from about 9 or 9:30 to 2 every day. The real issue was the money …
“The YMCA here could not afford to pay the bill for the county that exceeded $20,000 a year, quite frankly,” Davis added. He said Murphy did not indicate at that time that the county would be willing to increase the $7,000 to $8,000 it paid per year to pay for that expense.
“We are a non-profit,” said Davis. “We struggle just like everybody else who is … non-profit in the area.”
Davis pointed out that he also allowed the Department of the Aging to go onto a month-by-month agreement in order to take their time to find a new location for the Kannapolis programs.
“We didn’t force them out,” Davis said. “We said we’d do it on a month-to-month basis.”
Davis said in order for the YMCA to be host to the program in the future, it would take several things.
“It would take the county covering the expenses,” Davis said. “The YMCA shouldn’t pay the expenses to run the county’s programs …
“Number 2, let’s sit down and have meaningful dialogue with city officials and the county and let’s talk about how we can work together, so the Y doesn’t have a big outlay of cash to run their programs, and to focus on the seniors whose mental and physical health we need to be concerned about,” said Davis.
The relationship is salvagable, he insisted.
“Let’s sit down and plan how to do this together and not based on some mandate from us or them, presuming our expenses can be met,” Davis said. “We’ve got to manage all that carefully together. We can sit down and I’m confident that we can reopen this issue and try to make that work here.”
He added that the senior population is growing in Kannapolis and he hopes someday to be a part of that population.
“All this was stuff we discussed before they moved the program,” Davis added.
“I have no interest in pointing fingers and saying it’s his fault or her fault or his fault,” said Davis. At Monday’s meeting, several council members spoke out against moving the program from the YMCA. “I have an interest in taking care of our community. This is not a political issue. This is a well-being issue.”
One of the objections about the movement brought forth by Anderson which garnered applause from the audience was a question about the building.
“We do donate some funds from the city to the YMCA,” Anderson said. “This should be a community building, not a YMCA building for a handful of programs …
“All I can do is ask for pressure to be turned up,” Anderson added.
Davis pointed out that the building is a privately-owned building.
“It is not a public building, it is a private building,” Davis said. As for funds from the city, “funds donated are for specified purposes or for no strings attached.”
Any funds from the city are used as designated or if no designation is given, as the YMCA administration sees fit. The YMCA is a private corporation, Davis added. Memberships are private.
“We operate that way,” said Davis. “We don’t subsidize their (the county’s) social welfare programs. We can’t. We don’t have the money to do that.”
Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Joanie Morris