Put it on hold

Rendering of the Watertown Family YMCA’s proposed community center. Submitted photo

WATERTOWN — A Department of Defense grant aimed at improving quality of life for military families could fund the brunt of the Watertown Family YMCA community center project in the former Concentrix call center on Arsenal Street.

David Zembiec, deputy CEO of the Jefferson County Local Development Corp., on Thursday said the economic development agency will apply for up to $12 million on behalf of the YMCA for the $16.7 million project.

The funding would come through the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment under the Community Infrastructure Pilot program. The YMCA cannot seek the grant because the program requires that a governmental entity needs to apply.

The funding would be good news for the Y and IDA because the project has slowed because of the shutdown of the economy by the coronavirus.

“I think it’s very, very exciting,” said W. Edward Walldroff, secretary for the JCIDA board. “It’s like a ‘wow.’”

The community center would consist of a six-lane lap pool, a separate full-size recreational pool, three exercise rooms, an arts/multipurpose room, two indoor tennis courts and a community kitchen.

If the grant application is successful, the YMCA would hold off purchasing 60,000 square feet of the former call center from the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency under pilot program requirements, Mr. Zembiec said.

Advocate Drum, formerly the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, heard about the federal grant program that’s aimed to improve military families and suggested the agency apply for the funding, Mr. Zembiec said.

He’s optimistic about the local development corporation’s application, stressing Fort Drum families would be one of the big users of the community center, it would help families adjust to military life and it would have military value.

“It’s got some strengths,” he said.

The application is due on June 26, with news of whether the project is a finalist coming soon after that.

With Jefferson County a rural area, the project will not be required to provide any matching funding from the Y, but expenses already incurred on project will essentially be a plus in the application, Mr. Zembiec said.

Construction had been planned to begin by the end of 2020, but Y officials don’t know how COVID-19 will impact the start of the project.

The project has received $2.133 million from the state’s Consolidated Funding Application program.

The agency’s attorney, Joseph W. Russell, and the lawyer representing the YMCA spoke as recent as Wednesday about the Y purchasing the Concentrix space from the IDA for $500,000 after construction would be finished, rather than before the project began.

They still need to sort that issue out, Mr. Russell said.

With the delay in the property transfer, the local development corporation is spending thousands of dollars a month on the upkeep and maintenance of the former Concentrix building until the project can begin.

Board members asked Mr. Russell to see whether the Y would be willing to pay for some of the out-of-pocket expenses that it has incurred.

Watertown YMCA CEO Denise K. Young could not be reached for comment.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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