“There won’t be any refunds,” said Rick Callaway, YMCA board of director chairman. “If accounting has sent out any (refund) checks, they shouldn’t have. If we had money, we’d still be rocking and rolling; that’s what people don’t understand.”
YMCA officials announced last month that a continued downturn in the economy and a drying up of donations had caused the organization to close its Oakley and Clayton sites. On April 16, the organization announced it would be transferring the operations of its Pleasant Hill facility to the Berkeley-Albany YMCA, which will also take over some of the Mt. Diablo region’s childcare facilities, but none of the Oakley programs. The last day for childcare in Oakley will be June 3.
“The Berkeley-Albany YMCA is better positioned to take this on,” said Fran Gallati, president and CEO of the Berkeley-Albany YMCA. “We’re optimistic; our goal is to impact more kids and families and to do it in a more sustainable, long-term way. We’re a pretty disciplined Y (Berkeley-Albany) and intent on achieving our goals.”
In the wake of the site closures and recent bankruptcy announcement, plans for Oakley’s 25,000-square-foot expansion at the O’Hara Avenue site were subsequently shelved, leaving city officials to question Callaway’s claim that there will be no refunding of the community’s donations.
“I’m not quite sure where we go at this point,” said Oakley Mayor Pat Anderson. “But I will say that I find this very difficult to understand or accept. We will open communications, we will do whatever we can, but we will not let this go. I’m just incredibly disheartened.”
Oakley Union School Superintendent Rick Rogers, who pledged $5,000 to the expansion program, said he is not necessarily surprised by the developments and doesn’t expect to see his contributions returned.
“It was made in good faith at the time and it’s disappointing, but I think it is more unfortunate for the community because the idea was that it was a donation that was going out to the community,” said Rogers. “But will I trust the Y again? Of course not.”
Callaway said that despite the community pledges of $1.8 million, only $788,000 was actually collected for the Oakley expansion project, and because the Y had already spent $1.8 million on improvements such as utilities, paving and architectural drawings, there is no money left over to return.
“We spent more than we took in,” said Callaway. “I have talked with Pat (Anderson) and everything I ever told her and the (city) council was what I was told. It is what it is; there is nothing illegal, immoral or unethical going on.”
Perhaps, said Oakley City Manager Bryan Montgomery.
“We don’t agree that there is $1.8 million worth of an investment there,” said Montgomery. “All those improvements were in the ground before any of those donations were solicited and received and those donations were for the new facility. The city will need to pursue our interests through the bankruptcy trustee.”
Brentwood bankruptcy attorney Jim Price echoed Montgomery’s sentiments, saying that that the City of Oakley will most certainly be listed by the courts as “creditors owed,” but added, “They will likely have to just get in line with everyone else.”
Also in question for Oakley is the status of the three modules at the O’Hara Avenue site that were used as temporary facilities for the Y until the planned expansion was completed. Anderson said that Y officials had originally said that the YMCA owned the portables, and that it was the organization’s hope that they could leave at least one of the buildings on site for the city’s use. Now Callaway is saying that the modules are encumbered by financing and will mostly likely become a part of the bankruptcy proceedings. In the meantime, the city is left in limbo, unable to utilize the property it owns – possibly until the courts render a judgment.
“We are trying to figure out where we can go and what the process is,” said Anderson. “It’s incredibly frustrating; we can see it (the property) but we can’t touch it.”
Anderson added that she is fearful these recent develops are just another chapter in what looks to be an ongoing saga: “I believe this is just going to get deeper and deeper as things develop. The walls are difficult to climb but we will scale every one. To see that property just sitting there – it aches. It’s not right.”