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Punta Gorda to negotiate with YMCA to operate historic Cooper Street Recreation Center

The historic building has been a pillar in the East Punta Gorda community since the 1960's.
Posted at 9:04 PM, Apr 18, 2024

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — On April 17, the Punta Gorda City Council voted in favor of negotiating a lease agreement with the YMCA of Southwest Florida to take control of the historic Cooper Street Recreation Center.

In a 3-1 vote, council decided to move forward with lease negotiations with the Y, which was the only eligible bid out of the three that the city received. Council Member Deborah Lux was the sole nay vote, and argued that more time should’ve been given to allow local nonprofits to make acceptable bids.

Lux provided the following statement to Fox 4:

“During today's council meeting, the council finalized their selection of the non-profit to be considered for leasing the Cooper Street Recreation Center. The fact that only one non-profit was deemed eligible for this opportunity suggests that the application process, overseen by the council and directed to staff, may have been overly complex. Instead of reassessing the process and providing an opportunity to review and potentially support a small local non-profit for occupancy, the three other council members chose to allocate the building and its resources to a multi-million dollar corporation from Sarasota County. Ideally, there should have been a workshop where non-profits could present their proposals to the council prior to any decisions being made.
Deborah Lux, District 3 Punta Gorda City Council

The bid that was rejected came from a relatively new local organization, Community United Services, Inc, which facilitates programs for children, teens and seniors in Charlotte County.

During the council meeting, members discussed holding a workshop to review the details of the lease with the Y and who will serve on the community board to oversee operations.

Despite not winning the bid, CUSI’s board of directors gave their input during the workshop.

“We still hope there is an opportunity to collaborate with the Y,” said Paul Hibner, a CUSI board member. “We have expressed our interest in doing that several times. City council has offered an opportunity for there to be a workshop with the Y and we hope to provide some material that might be used in that workshop to help meet the community's needs.”

A date for the workshop has not been set yet.