Surgoinsville may cut costs at Fitness Center with automated entry, bill pay

Jeff Bobo • Aug 18, 2017 at 7:00 PM

SURGOINSVILLE - Rather than closing its municipal fitness center the Surgoinsville Board of Mayor and Aldermen is investigating the possibility of installing an auto pay and key card entry system that would eliminate the need to pay an employee.

While working on the 2017-18 budget this past June the BMA discussed the possibility of closing the municipal fitness center after it operated about $24,000 in the red the previous fiscal year.

Instead the board decided to look into the only way available of cutting costs, which is to cut the staff position at the Fitness Center.

Surgoinsville police Chief James Hammonds told the BMA during its regular monthly meeting Monday that he'd received a quote of $200 per month from a California company called Ezfacility to manage an automated billing and key card entry system for the Fitness Center.

Members could pay online or at City Hall, and if they didn't pay, their entry card would be deactivated.

A keyless entry system would cost about $1,500.

Hammond told the board that Ezfacility will also design an "App" for that Fitness Center members can download to their phone.

"People will be able to get on there and do challenges every day," Hammonds said. "Kind of like a personal fitness coach online. And they can also pay membership fees with that App.”

The fitness center, which opened in 2009 on Main Street across from City Hall, has lost between $8,000 and $11,000 every year it has been open, and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen has kept it going as a service to the citizens.

But a decrease in membership resulted in a loss in excess of $24,000 in 2016-17, which Mayor Merrell Graham said was not sustainable.

That's why the automated system is so appealing, Graham noted.

"In other words we'd have virtually no employees," Graham said. It would be open 24 hours per day with a key card entry."

When the fitness center opened it was intended to be financially self-sufficient.

In 2009, the BMA purchased used fitness equipment for $6,000, and then negotiated what former Mayor Johnny Greer described as a “sweetheart deal” for space in the Surgoinsville Utility District building to locate the new gym. The town rents the space for $300 per month.

The single membership fee is $20 per month for Surgoinsville residents and $25 per month for non-residents. Family membership is $40 for residents and $45 for non-residents.

As of June 7, the fitness center had brought in only $10,169 in revenue, but it had cost the city $34,659.

The BMA will discuss its options for the Fitness Center at its Sept. 5 workshop meeting.                                                       

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