Published: Feb 16, 2013 06:00 PM
Modified: Feb 15, 2013 11:32 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Protests continued last week against the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA’s plans to remove the town’s last publicly accessible racquetball/handball courts.
Thursday the objections of devoted court users took a form familiar to local residents since protests of the 1960s; picketers appeared in the front of the YMCA’s building along Martin Luther King Boulevard.
They hope to dissuade the YMCA’s Board of Directors from proceeding with plans to close the courts early this year and to use that area to open more floor space for fitness and exercise equipment.
“We believe the board made a decision based on poor information. We would hope the board would reconsider its decision,” said David Bermingham, one of the seven picketers who formed a line Thursday outside the YMCA and vowed to return on a regular basis, at least until the next meeting of the YMCA’s directors.
“None of the court users were ever consulted about this change,” Bermingham said.
The picketers’ first appearance outside the YMCA came within a week of the delivery to YMCA board president Dabney Grinnan of a set of proposed changes to the by-laws of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA.
Delivered by attorney and former Chapel Hill mayor pro tem Robert Epting, a Y member and avid handball player, the proposed changes comprise two amendments to the local YMCA’s by-laws.
The first amendment would require all meetings of the board of directors be open to all members and that they be allowed to address the board. The second would require that any decision to close a YMCA program or facility could proceed only after the Y consulted members who use those services and a direct vote on the decision by the Y membership.
“It would not be appropriate to take any action to prohibit any use of the courts” until the membership voted on the issue, Epting said.
The board intends to review the proposed amendments at its next meeting on Feb. 27, Grinnan said.
Grinnan said the YMCA has the necessary funds to proceed with the renovation and that the board hopes to have architectural renderings of the plan at the meeting.
Grinnan also said she understands there is still “a core group of gentlemen who are unhappy with the decision. ... There are all sorts of people who see the issue differently.”
Epting said he had received an email from Grinnan that said the first 15 minutes of the meeting would be open to the public and the rest would then be closed.
The first amendment was authored after Epting and racquetball player Billy Barnes were prevented from attending a Y board of directors meeting in January where complaints about the renovations were discussed.
“The second amendment is made necessary by the secret planning and consideration given to closing the (racquetball/handball) Courts by the staff and the board in recent months, concluding in votes taken by the Board of Directors at meetings where no general notice of the Board’s intent to take such action was given to the public,” Epting wrote in a letter dated Feb. 8 to Grinnan.
Present YMCA by-laws require that proposed amendments be mailed to all members of the YMCA at least 30 days prior to a general membership meeting, and that by-law changes be voted upon by the membership, Epting said in his letter.