Fitness center discounts offered to Sunset Hills employees

Ward 2 alderman advocates free employee memberships.

By EVAN YOUNG

Sunset Hills now will offer discounted memberships to its new Community Center for city employees and elected officials, according to a policy change approved last week by the Board of Aldermen.

The board voted 5-3 at its Jan. 11 meeting to amend the city’s personnel policy to offer a 50-percent discount on resident individual and family annual memberships for all Sunset Hills employees and elected officials.

Ward 1 Alderman Dee Baebler, Ward 2 Alderman Scott Haggerty and Ward 3 Alderman Stephen Webb were opposed.

The discount is only valid for fitness center memberships at the Sunset Hills Community Center. The city previously offered employees a 50-percent discount on memberships to the YMCA and other health clubs.

“We’re trying to encourage all employees of the city to be concerned about their fitness, about their health, and to promote membership to the Sunset Hills Community Center,” said Ward 1 Alderman Frank Hardy, a member of the city’s personnel committee, which recommended the discount.

Annual individual resident fitness center memberships at the community center cost $220, or $110 with the new employee discount; annual family memberships at the resident rate are $350, or $175 with the discount.

The $4.8 million Sunset Hills Community Center opened in November and, along with the fitness center, features a gymnasium, meeting rooms and offices for parks and recreation staff.

The city in 2009 issued $14.1 million in bond-like certificates of participation, or COPs, to finance the construction of the community center, a new aquatic center and stormwater projects. The COPs are being retired with revenue generated by Prop P, a 20-year, half-cent sales tax to fund parks and stormwater improvements approved by voters in April 2007.

But officials have since said the COPs will not be enough to cover day-to-day costs at the new facilities; the city instead will rely heavily on revenue from membership, room rental and program fees.

Mayor Bill Nolan told the Call the city continues to look for ways to promote the community center to boost participation.

Nolan estimated that 750 to 800 Community Center memberships, along with room rental and program revenues, are required to meet the facility’s budgeted operational costs of roughly $330,000.

To date, 228 memberships have been sold, Director of Parks and Recreation Director Gerald Brown told the board last week.

Webb asked Brown how the employee membership discount policy would impact Community Center revenue.

Brown said employee memberships weren’t factored into that projection.

“We did not put employees in there as a projected revenue …,” he said. “Whether we have 10 people working out or whether we have 50 people working out, the expense is not there.”

Two employees took advantage of the city’s previous wellness incentive, City Clerk Laura Rider noted.

Aldermen who opposed the policy did so for different reasons. Webb and Baebler said after the meeting they were concerned about the cost to the city.

“While I’m fully supportive of providing the benefits to our employees — because they’re obviously well-deserving — I’d like to have a better understanding of the impact as it relates to our budget,” Webb told the Call. “And it’s good to have more participation at our Community Center, but there’s a cost associated with that.

“What I don’t want to happen is at the end of the year all of a sudden we have a huge problem and we’re scrounging around everywhere trying to find money when this could’ve been an area to do that.”

Haggerty said he preferred the city offer free memberships to the Community Center for employees.

Nolan said he, too, wanted the city to offer free individual memberships to employees. He also disagreed with the discount being offered for only annual memberships, which was the recommendation of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board.

“If they have to pay, they should be able to pay on a monthly basis rather than pay the money up front,” Nolan told the Call. “Why should they have to come up with a couple hundred dollars up front when the residents can pay it on a month-to-month basis?”