Monday, December 22, 2014

ORC board OKs Goppert fee

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 11/15/2013

Tommy Sink is concerned, but not panicking, he said.

The Ottawa Recreation Commission board voted 4-0 Wednesday to charge an admission fee, effective Jan. 1, 2014, to use the Ottawa Community Recreation Center/Goppert Building, 705 W. 15th St. Dan Stepp, the fifth board member, was not in attendance.

Tommy Sink is concerned, but not panicking, he said.

The Ottawa Recreation Commission board voted 4-0 Wednesday to charge an admission fee, effective Jan. 1, 2014, to use the Ottawa Community Recreation Center/Goppert Building, 705 W. 15th St. Dan Stepp, the fifth board member, was not in attendance.

ORC staff members have discussed the fee idea for a while, Sink, ORC director, said, but were reluctant to take action.

“We have had light conversation of it for the last three months, maybe back as far as six months,” Sink said. “We could see it coming. We just didn’t know when or how. We just flat didn’t want to do it, but the options are just not there.”

The fees approved by the board Wednesday were $2 per day for ages 12 through 59; $1 per day for ages 6 through 11 and 60 and older; children age 5 and younger would be admitted free. The ORC also is working on a separate punch-card system, which would offer a cheaper per-day price to people who buy the cards, Sink said.

“We will try to put together some type of proposal that is fair to everyone and try to give them a little price break if they buy an amount of punches at one time,” he said.

Charging an admission fee for the first time since the building opened in September 2011 comes from a need to address specific financial challenges at the center, Sink said.

“The payments on the building is not the issue,” Sink said. “That money is there and will always be there. It is the operation of the facility and the continued upkeep for every-day use is where the concern is coming from. We are not going to shut the doors. We have money reserved to operate if we didn’t take in another penny for a period of time. We’re going to continue to do events, especially events and programs to raise money to help offset costs. ... Where the issues come in, the thought process didn’t allow for the operation [of the building].”

The amount of traffic in the building overwhelms janitorial services and causes equipment issues within the two-story building that features an indoor basketball court, various gym equipment and a track upstairs, Sink said.

“Originally, I don’t think we thought we would have the amount of traffic that we have,” Sink said. “We are talking about thousands of visits in a year. When you have several thousand people go through this facility each year, there becomes a janitorial issue. It’s bathrooms. It’s floors. It’s glass.”

Two treadmills upstairs in the building, valued at $7,000 a piece, each have logged more than 250,000 miles in the past two years, Sink said. While still in working condition, they won’t last forever, he said. “How do we replace something down the road is my concern,” Sink said, “Because they will come to a point where they are not worth fixing.”

While Sink said the staff will continue to repair equipment as long as there are no safety issues, other unexpected expenses over the past two years have affected the building.

“A prime example is a year ago in July when we had our hot, hot summer and drought. Our electric bill was $7,000 [that month],” he said. “The budget was only set at $3,500 a month. When we have a mild summer or a mild winter, it is not a problem. There has been a lot of wear and tear, not only in the equipment, but in our heating and air conditioning process. There’s filters and these are big units. Those filters are not cheap. The landscaping and mulch — you think that you put mulch down and you are good to go. That mulch rots, blows away and more has to be brought in every summer. That was an unexpected expense.”

Everett Rock, Ottawa, said he is a frequent attendee at the ORC and plans to keep coming regardless of the new fee.

“I understand that things happen,” Rock said. “It doesn’t surprise me really. I don’t mind the fee because working out is kind of my hobby. I’ll keep coming.”

Sink and the ORC board members understand that not everyone will share Rock’s view on the change.

“There isn’t a good way to pitch this,” Russ Wilson, board member, said at Wednesday’s meeting. “When we proposed [the building], we did not take into account these things. We made a mistake.”

The new admission fee likely will cause the number of people who use the building to drop, Sink said.

“We know it is going to happen, and we know there are going to be some unhappy people,” Sink said. “For those people, I hope they understand.”

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