Members of the Upper Perkiomen branch of the Freedom Valley YMCA and other local YMCA branches are reportedly concerned about a proposed merger and changes to their home facilities come Jan. 1. The merger would combine the Freedom Valley and Philadelphia YMCA branches into one entity.
A town hall meeting was held at the Spring Valley YMCA location on Nov. 12 which allowed members to voice their questions and concerns on the merger.
Representatives from the Freedom Valley and Philadelphia YMCA branches were present to answer questions and provide an overview of what the merger will entail for current members.
The merger is purportedly providing the opportunity for the combined YMCA branches to build a new branch in Conshohocken where there is no facility and provide cost savings of up to $150,000 a year to employees who have healthcare plans through Freedom Valley YMCA.
It is also said to increase charitable support as the Philadelphia YMCA has relationships with larger corporate partners.
The merger will also offer a better retirement plan for Freedom Valley employees as the Philadelphia branch has a more attractive plan in place.
There is no plan to increase membership fees or reduce staffing to any of the affected locations.
Representatives said while fees and staffing will remain the same, members under the merger would be able to use all 15 branches within the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA Association; however, they are still required to purchase a membership at the Y they intend to use the most. Members will not be able to attend free classes at the 10 current Philadelphia and vicinity branches, nor will Freedom Valley YMCA members be able to use the outdoor pools outside Spring Valley, Phoenixville and Upper Perkiomen.
Sandy Lipstein, chairman of the board for the Freedom Valley YMCA, stated in a letter to members, “This is a merger of equals – this is not Philly invading our territory and taking us over. In fact, I am to be the chair of the combined Corporate Board, and there will be equal representation from each YMCA.”
Concerns remain regarding the impact this may have on the Upper Perkiomen branch complex proposed off of Quakertown Road in Upper Hanover, bordering the existing Kistler-Bitting Park. Information provided on the Freedom Valley YMCA’s website lists the merger as having “no impact on the timing or scope of these projects.”
Michael Tannous, director of the Upper Perkiomen YMCA, stated only “positive things” will come from the merger and feels there are common concerns from members regarding the merger but added, “This is a good thing.”
Tannous also remarked, “The Philadelphia Y is eager to see a full-facility in our community as much as we are – they are serious about the mission of the Y too. We are delighted to have the privilege of working with Upper Hanover Township who has been very supportive to see a full-facility Y come to our community.”
In an email response to the Upper Perkiomen YMCA members having concerns regarding the merger, Tannous replied, “Generally, there has been a limited concerned response from our members. One of the more repeated concerns I heard was people wondering how it might impact our plans for a new facility. But as I wrote earlier, if anything, this will strengthen the mission of the Y in our community and not impede in any way our plans to build.”
Current full-privilege members who are at least 18 years of age are encouraged to attend the Nov. 15 final vote at Chadwick’s Restaurant in Audubon at 7 p.m.
According to an email sent to Freedom Valley members Nov. 13, the decision whether or not to move forward with the merger rests the organization’s membership. “The voting process is simple - the outcome will be based on the votes of a simple majority of members attending the meeting,” it states.
The email goes on to encourage members to vote yes to the merger, stating, “insufficient yes votes will result in our Y missing a terrific opportunity for our members, staff and community.”