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Sunday, December 30, 2012
RIVERSIDE: City/County YMCA files for bankruptcy
Per The Press-Enterprise
The YMCA of Riverside City and County will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and get assistance from the YMCA of Orange County to stay open, officials said Friday, Dec. 28.
The decision to file for bankruptcy follows months of financial troubles for the Riverside-based organization, which has had to close its 3-year-old Temecula recreation center earlier this year and has at times been unable to cover employees’ paychecks.
“We want to protect the organization (and) our employees,” said Jackie Fielder, CEO of the Riverside YMCA, adding that the partnership with Orange County will do that.
She said the Orange County YMCA will provide financial assistance to Riverside, but declined to provide details. YMCA of Orange County CEO Jeff McBride and board chairman Bob Traut could not be reached Friday.
For now, no employee layoffs are planned and services to members will not change, Fielder said. She expected the bankruptcy reorganization to be “good for everyone” and to enable the YMCA to pay its employee in a timely way.
A plan for the city of Temecula to buy the YMCA facility there stalled after disagreement over the extent of repairs it will need, but Fielder said a deal may still be worked out. Costs associated with the Temecula site made an already precarious financial situation untenable, Fielder said.
Riverside YMCA gym users said Friday that they were surprised to hear about the bankruptcy filing.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” said Bryson Castro, 16, of Riverside.
His friend Matt Stephens, 16, had a similar reaction.
“It’s shocking,” Stephens said. “There’s a lot of people who come here. I’m a volunteer here. No one has ever said anything.”
He said he likes how friendly the Y staff is.
“This is my only spot to work out,” Stephens said, as Castro nodded in agreement.
Temecula resident and former YMCA employee Shayna Fields, however, wasn’t at all surprised by news of the bankruptcy. She said she still has checks worth $700 that she hasn’t been able to cash since she quit her job at the YMCA several months ago.
Fields said she was a pool manager at the Temecula location and came to work in Riverside when it closed. She also has worked at the Hemet location, and has held various positions, including lifeguard and swim instructor.
Fields said she has had to ask repeatedly when she’ll be able to cash her checks and has often been promised that money is coming soon.
“I’ve emailed and called,” she said. “It’s gotten to the point where half the time they don’t even answer my calls.”
In the past year, financial problems led the Riverside YMCA to cut after-school programs in the Alvord Unified, Riverside Unified and Perris Elementary school districts, and to turn over operations of a Jurupa Valley facility to the Corona-Norco Family YMCA.
In the 2010-11 fiscal year, the Riverside YMCA reported $6.5 million in revenues and $7.6 million in expenses, leaving a $1.1 million deficit, according to IRS forms posted online by GuideStar, which compiles information on nonprofit groups.
The decision to build the Southwest Family YMCA in Temecula, which opened in 2009 before Fielder became CEO, didn’t work out as planned.
Fielder said the organization already was in financial straits because it had no reserves and officials were borrowing money for operating cash. The YMCA spent $4.8 million on the Temecula facility, but officials have said that it was never big enough and failed to attract sufficient donations or members.
The organization used its Riverside facility as collateral for the Temecula project, so now there’s nothing else to borrow against to shore up its finances, Fielder said.
“Building that Temecula location was really the tipping point of our financial downfall,” she said.
In April, a $1.6 million deal was announced to sell the facility to the city of Temecula, but Fielder said that hasn’t panned out because of disagreement over the cost of repairs. The YMCA estimated repairs at $400,000, while the city came up with $1.3 million because of prevailing wage requirements, unexpected construction defects and other issues, Fielder said.
In November, the Temecula City Council voted to declare the YMCA in default of its lease agreement with the city, which owns the property where the building is located.
Asked whether she will remain as CEO, Fielder said she doesn’t know.
“My whole goal was to see the organization survive and be around for the next century,” she said. “It’s all about what’s best for the organization.”
Follow Alicia Robinson on Twitter: @arobinson_pe, or online at http://blog.pe.com/riverside/
Also contributing to this report: Staff writer Dayna Straehley, email@example.com.