At least one member of the board of the Loudoun County YMCA plans to resign in protest over miscommunication with the group's Washington-based parent organization and a failed deal to build a recreational center on 16 acres of county-owned land in Ashburn.
Board member Megan Descutner said that she will step down from the board after six years of service and that she thinks four of the board's 11 other members also are considering resigning.
Descutner said she felt that the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, which owns and operates the Loudoun branch and 15 others across the region, had not kept local volunteers properly informed about negotiations with county officials over a possible public-private partnership to open a new building.
"I don't want my name attached to decisions that not only do I not have input in but that I do not even have knowledge of," she said.
If the deal had materialized, the YMCA would have built and operated a spacious recreation center on land in the Broadlands subdivision leased cheaply for 50 years from the county.
Last month, however, county officials announced that the metropolitan YMCA had decided not to pursue the deal. The announcement caught those involved in the local YMCA for years by surprise, said Descutner and Loudoun board Chairwoman Linda Kelley.
"I've got people on the street saying to me, 'What happened?' The local board members were not told this in advance," Kelley said. "We felt they disrespected our county government and our local YMCA."
Supervisor Bruch E. Tulloch (R-Potomac), the lead elected official negotiating with the group, said he was equally surprised.
"They knew everything up front," he said. "We spent a year and a quarter of the county's resources on these negotiations. And then in the eleventh hour, when they were supposed to perform after using the county's resources, they decide the thing did not fulfill their requirements."
Officials from the Washington-based umbrella organization said they were committed to building a free-standing facility in Loudoun to replace the crowded storefront out of which the group has operated for years.
But they said problems cropped up in negotiations with the county that made the Broadlands property too expensive and unsuited to their needs. In particular, they said they realized a traffic light would be needed to get buses packed with children in and out safely. Making road improvements and installing the light would have significantly increased the building's cost, said Leigh Taylor-Kron, chief financial officer for the organization.
"These items started to come together, and the cost started to amount to the point where it could overburden the mission of the association," she said.
She said the group was also uneasy about the plan to lease county land rather than buy it outright.
Several metropolitan YMCA officials said they were disappointed to hear about the local board's complaints, saying that local officials knew in the spring and summer that problems had cropped up.
The final decision to cut off negotiations came quickly, said Pam Curran, vice president of operations, just before Tulloch announced it publicly. Curran said that she tried to e-mail and call Kelley to explain but that her calls were not returned.
In response, Kelley said that she was "surprised that [Curran] went there" and that she was "not going to get into that with her."
Kelley repeated again that "no one at metro YMCA kept any of the [Loudoun] board members in the know."
At a special meeting Thursday, Kelley said Loudoun board members decided, as a final effort to mend fences, to put their concerns in a letter to their counterparts in Washington.
Both sides said the group's efforts in Loudoun, which include the popular Chocolate Galore and More festival, an annual charity golf tournament, and dozens of after-school activities and summer camps for children, would continue.
Max Kipfer, who served on the Loudoun board for 11 years before becoming an official liaison between the local group and Washington organization, said there were undoubtedly "miscommunications" in the process.
But he said many local volunteers had not given up their dream of 0building a facility like the popular YMCA in Reston. He said he hoped personal conflicts would not interfere with that goal.
"I think the reaction has been a little harsh," he said. "The goal here is to build a YMCA. Anything contrary to that, I believe, takes us away from that."
But Tulloch said he would think twice before leading the county into any new discussions.
"I've got to tell you, I think the reception by this Board of Supervisors would be one of caution," he said.