“Repurpose”: That was the slippery terminology Triangle YMCA CEO Doug McMillan used at a September community meeting to discuss the fate of Durham’s Lakewood YMCA.

Now it appears that “repurpose” means selling the building on Chapel Hill Road and leasing back a smaller space from the as yet-unknown new owners. A special YMCA task force made the recommendation last week, incensing the Committee to Save the Lakewood Y, whose members say they weren’t notified before the decision was announced.

The Durham Advisory Board is delaying a vote on the recommendation in order to hold a community meeting, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 15. A final vote will likely be held by the end of the year.

While YMCA officials emphasize they’re looking for new owners with a “comparable mission,” citizens are concerned that the lease idea is yet another nail in the coffin of the beloved inner-city facility. The Triangle YMCA, based in Raleigh, hasn’t maintained Lakewood, now needing $5 million in repairs, nor nurtured its programming. The pool also will likely close, says YMCA spokeswoman Jennifer Nelson, “because it is expensive to maintain and not used.”

There is a precedent for lease agreements; the Triangle Y has a 10-year lease on a former YWCA space in Raleigh. Yet it’s uncertain who would buy the ailing Lakewood building and what would happen if the lease weren’t renewed.

Chuck Clifton, chairman of the Save the Lakewood Y Committee, criticized the Durham Advisory Board for their lack of transparency, particularly regarding board proceedings. “It’s not clear how the board knows what the community wants.”

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