With the Northern Berkshire YMCA, it’s a problem of leadership

As reported here on April 25 the Northern Berkshire YMCA in North Adams is putting the healthy and safety of its members and staff at risk. Given what’s transpired since, there is little reason to believe real change is around the corner.

The problems:

  • There are no phones or emergency buttons  in any of the locker rooms that would allow a YMCA member to get help in the event of a medical emergency in a timely manner. This means, Mr. Ihne and the YMCA’s board, headed by board president David Brown, are telling families that if their children are using the boys or girls locker room and something goes wrong: a fall, a seizure, some other medical emergency, they better have a cell phone on them, stay in emotional control, and call 911, or, as Mr. Ihne said in an April 17 letter to me, they can yell for the lifeguard (who very likely would not be able to hear them).
  • After the United States Department of Justice inspected city-owned buildings for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) violations,  a  2012  settlement was reached. Since the April 25 piece the family locker room has been upgraded to ADA standards and grab bars have been put in half of the men’s shower area. Steps in the right direction. However, neither Mr. Ihne or Mr. Brown will say when grab bars will be put up in the other shower areas and the bathroom stalls throughout the building. They’ve been asked repeatedly.
  • And, as reported here on April 25, an individual took suddenly ill at the YMCA early one weekday morning losing control of his bowels in the pool area and in the locker room area. When YMCA members the next day noticed the area had at best been damped mop but was clearly not cleaned and disinfected, Mr. Ihne and Mr. Brown refused to say what protocol had been followed. Mr. Ihne declared a protocol had been followed but as of this writing, refuses to tell members what the protocol was. Given that the badly sick individual took ill in the pool area all locker rooms as well as the pool area should have been cleaned and disinfected.

If you thought the fact the city owned the building would prompt the city to take action, think again. Mayor Richard Alcombright has said he has great faith in Justin Ihne, the YMCA’s executive director and a major part of the problem.  Councilwoman Nancy Bullet said it is an internal matter. The office of State Senator Ben Dowling has, to its credit, been attentive to the situation.

Mr. Ihne and Councilwoman Jennifer Breen are in a league of their own. When Mr. Ihne (as well as the council members, Mr. Brown and others) were sent two  pictures (see below) of the entrance to the men’s sauna, only inches from where some of the man’s fecal matter had been discharged, pictures taken after Mr. Ihne said the area had been cleaned, Mr. Ihne at first denied the sauna entrance was anywhere near the problem. When he was told he was wrong, that those of us who were there saw the fecal matter right in front of the sauna door, Mr. Ihne responded with a burst of stellar leadership and announced he was blocking this advocate’s emails. However, Mr. Ihne was thoroughly outdone when it comes to outlandish and, frankly, childish responses, by Councilwoman Breen. She signaled her concern for the health and safety of the Y’s members and staff by asking not to be included in the email discussion. When asked why she did run for office if things like this didn’t concern her, she responded by sending me an email praising Mr.Ihne and calling me names. I’m told this kind of behavior is not out of character for Ms. Breen.

Here are the pictures of the entrance to the men’s sauna taken after the so-called clean-up.




Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.