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Heart of the Matter
Everyone wins with the YMCA
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At times, I just have to shake my head and ask, “What is it with Belleair Beach?”

That city of lovely homes and a privileged lifestyle is on the verge of bailing out of a cooperative community-wide effort created just two short years ago.

Belleair Beach is about to tell the North Beaches YMCA to take a flying leap.

Why? Finance committee chairman Bert Cutler claims it is all about numbers. The finance committee thinks not enough residents participate in the YMCA to make it worth their while.


Could we please look to the future? This should be about the changing face of Belleair Beach, with younger families moving in. And, it should be about a commitment made to a YMCA partnership with Belleair Shore, Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores. The North Beaches Branch YMCA is still in its infancy, while its slate of recreational and educational programs continues to evolve and diversify. It is an asset to the four communities it serves. As a YMCA advisory board member, I believe that wholeheartedly.

Yet, those grumpy sounds of the same old naysayers who seemingly have little else to do but gripe and complain about everything positive are being heard again. This time their grumbling is about the $20,000 the city pays annually to be a member of the North Beaches Branch YMCA alliance.

Keep in mind that’s $20,000 out of Belleair Beach’s $2-million annual budget. It’s a drop in the bucket, especially in light of the $559,000 the city has budgeted for its police department.

Let’s be clear. More than a half million dollars is budgeted to police a city of 1,633 residents where crime is rare and minor, while a comparative pittance invested in a program to keep minds and bodies fit is being cut off at the knees.

Let’s not forget the $50,000 or so the city plans to pay a City Manager who will oversee five people. Plus, the finance committee earmarks $15,000 to hire a part-time employee to pull weeds at the city’s parks, which are already quite pristine, if you ask me.

Yet, the YMCA is not worth it? Clearly, what some have in dollars, they lack in sense.

What a loss their bad judgment would be for the young families who are increasingly making Belleair Beach their home, and the YMCA a part of their lives. The beaches Y soon will launch a youth center to give teens and middle school children a safe place to gather on weekend nights. That’s in addition to the swimming lessons, adult water exercise, yoga, pilates, group exercise, computer, windsurfing, sailing, tumbling tots, kiddy art, mom and tot play and mom and tot yoga programs already in place. The Y sponsors beach parties and has been visible at nearly every community event since its inception.

Now is not the time to pull the plug.

Instead, now is the time to reinforce a sense of community and support your neighbors who are involved with the YMCA. Those who do little else but sit back

and sneer should be ashamed. Rather than penny pinch, why not get with the program?

If you support the YMCA in your community, let your council or commission members know right away.

They are elected to represent your wishes.

The next Belleair Beach City Council meeting is Monday, Aug. 16. If you can’t be there, call or write them a letter.

It’s not too late.

Chary Southmayd is the editor of the Belleair Bee and Entertainment Extra!.
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