Melrose Y, Greater Lynn Y Discuss Possible Merger
With a management and resource sharing agreement between the two Y's ending this spring, the Board of Directors for each organization are reviewing whether a permanent merger would be beneficial.
Melrose Y and Greater Lynn Y officials are exploring whether a possible merger could help stabilize the smaller Melrose organization while allowing the Greater Lynn organization to direct more money back into programs and services.
The two Y's entered into a management and resource-sharing agreement last April, shortly after new Melrose Branch Executive Director Diana Brennan arrived. That agreement made Bruce Macdonald, CEO of the Greater Lynn Y—which includes the Lynn Y, Saugus Family Y and Torgian Family Y in Peabody—also the CEO of the Melrose Y.
Included in that agreement was an opportunity for each Y's Board of Directors to consider whether to continue sharing upper-level management and resources by permanently merging into one larger corporation, Brennan said. As the agreement was originally set to expire on April 1, it was extended by two months to give each Y's Board of Director's time to review last year audit's, with the goal of making a decision on the merger by June.
"For the past year, the Greater Lynn Y has been really unbelievable in helping to manage the Melrose YMCA during this transitional time in our history," Brennan said. "We’re recovering financially and we’ve made some changes, so they’ve been really instrumental in helping us get back on our feet."
Macdonald said that the Greater Lynn Y has "really enjoyed working with Melrose" and that discussions about a possible merger are currently in a "due diligence" period, making sure the merger would economically make sense for both organizations.
"It’s premature to say which way we’re going, but we’re very seriously considering it on both sides, I think," he said.
The upside of a potential merger would be each Y taking advantage of collective resources and economies of scale, Macdonald said, such as having one CEO, one financial officer and so forth.
"A lot of the smaller Y's, you have one person doing 100 different things rather specialists in those areas," he said.
Brennan echoed the sharing of upper-level resources as a positive aspect of a potential merger, in addition to staffing and program collaborations, pointing specifically to the nearby Saugus Y.
Merger could bring greater collaboration with nearby Saugus Y
The Saugus Y at 298 Main St., near the intersection of Main Street and the Lynn Fells Parkway, is 14 acre property that includes an outdoor pool. Both Brennan and Macdonald said greater collaboration between the Melrose and Saugus Y's would compliment both.
"Their Saugus Y is literally a mile and a half, two miles from the Melrose Y, and the Melrose Y in of itself has four facilities," Brennan said. "It's really a nice fit. The proximity is pretty ideal for the two Y’s to work more closely on many things."
Macdonald said an outdoor summer camp is run at the Saugus Y and that a high percentage of kids who attend that program come from Melrose.
"If you really drew a circle around the Saugus and Melrose facilities and said, 'This is your primary market area,' almost 60 percent of that intersects," he said. "It seems like we should be working together."
Melrose Y driven largely by child care
The Greater Lynn Y has approximately four times as many members as the Melrose Y—20,000 to 5,000—but Macdonald said that's also a function of Melrose's business model having a different mix. For instance, the Torgian Family Y in Peabody is mostly membership-driven, while the Lynn Y is driven more by child care services, as is the Melrose Y.
"I don’t have it right in front of me, but I think well over 60 percent of the Melrose Y is really child care based," he said.
According to the Melrose Y's 2009 tax forms (PDF attached), in 2009 the organization brought in $5,600,093 in revenue. Of that amount, $3,280,703 came from child care.
Macdonald said that the Greater Lynn Y has a budget of $8.5 million, while Melrose has a budget of $4-5 million.
Brennan said the Melrose Y is "doing really well, I'm happy to report," after taking a hit in 2009, when the arrest, indictment and eventual conviction of former employee James Conner led to state sanctions—since lifted—and an overhaul of the Y's management and Board of Directors.
"When I first got here in 2010, we were getting our 2009 audit back," she said. "It said that we had lost about $500,000, with everything that happened to us in 2009."
According to the Melrose Y's 2009 tax forms, in 2008 the organization lost $115,584. A year later, it lost $674,044.
"This year our audit is coming back and it looks like we’ll be right around breaking even for the year, which is a huge swing," Brennan said. "We’re definitely moving in the right direction."
Part of the recovery has included a re-focusing of programs at the Melrose Y, such as the ending of its after-school program. Brennan said the Y's enrichment and its sports and fitness program are "really going strong," with participation in both types of programs up 25 percent from where it was one year ago. The organization also obtained financing from Mass Development for a tax-free $5 million bond to purchase the child care facility it previously leased in Stoneham.
"We’re definitely getting our feet underneath us," she said. "I think in the next couple of years the Melrose YMCA will be stronger than it ever has been. It's really exciting."