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East Carbon reviews fitness facility project

Sun Advocate reporter

East Carbon City moved closer to opening a community-based gym at Tuesday's council meeting.

Presentations from the owner of Pro Rehab and the town's Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) volunteers set the stage for a discussion about the health of East Carbon citizens and the desire for a facility where everyone can get in shape.

"Already, we have had lots of people offer their own home equipment for use in the center," said Jeff Ohwiler from Pro Rehab.

Ohwiler scouted deals on workout equipment and proposed that the city council provide approximately $15,000 to purchase several resistance-type machines.

An additional $5,000 was requested for a security system.

"If we were to get 30 memberships at $30 a month we could raise more than $10,000 the first year to be returned to the general fund," Ohwiler said.

Ohwiler threw out a $10,000 figure and indicated that the city might not have to foot the entire bill for the equipment.

"We could get companies to donate grants in exchange for them being able to advertise in the center," said Mayor Orlando LaFontaine.

A $2,000 donation had already come in from one company before anyone had officially started soliciting funds, added the mayor.

LaFontaine lauded Ohwiler's efforts in searching out the best possible deals for equipping the proposed center.

"I want to commend you for reducing the cost from $60,000 to $20,000," said the mayor.

The idea of opening a fitness center in the Bicentennial Building on Park Place has been in the works for a while and discussions have included health professionals from around the county, said LaFontaine.

The VISTA volunteers had been compiling information on several pertinent issues which would support the need for the workout facility.

Volunteer Cindy Jensen said VISTA's research revealed that more than 50 percent of Utahns are overweight or suffer from obesity.

The figures for East Carbon and Sunnyside were nearly as dire, with approximately 40 percent of residents suffering from obesity and obesity related problems.

However, the investigation revealed that 30 minutes of exercise and healthier eating habits would alleviate part of the problem.

According to Jensen, regular exercise would reverse loss of muscle, build bone mass, lower stress and build self-esteem.

Not relying on research alone, the VISTA volunteers conducted a telephone survey with 104 households out the 650 in East Carbon, Columbia and Sunnyside.

The outcome of the survey was 92 percent of the households wanting the facility and 85 percent willing to pay for memberships.

The volunteers also calculated possible financial outcomes based on a membership fee of $15 per person and, in a worst case scenario, projected the city would get more than $11,000 a year.

The council engaged in a thorough discussion about the logistics of such an enterprise after Ohwiler's and VISTA's presentations.

Newly elected councilmembers Terry Harrison, Andy Urbanik and David Avery added their own questions and concerns.

Urbanik zeroed in on potential liability issues related to having a center that for the most part would be unstaffed.

"Have we looked at the cost of manning it for specific hours?" asked Urbanik. "I see huge security and safety issues here."

LaFontaine reminded everyone at the meeting that fitness centers have popped up in many residential and commercial complexes around the country and the facilities are never staffed.

Harrison focused on the financial feasibility of funding the equipment, while at the same time throwing his support behind the project.

"I am all in favor of a fitness center," said Harrison. "I will sign up and I may even stick with it. But I would like open the budget to be sure the money would be available."

While Ohwiler may be getting great prices on the initial purchase of the equipment, Avery said the city needed to also consider the cost of maintaining it.

Ohwiler found treadmills for $1,400, much lower than the regular price of fitness and exercise machines, according to LaFontaine.

Ohwiler acknowledged Avery's concern, indicating that most of the machines were fairly maintenance free, but the treadmills were a different beast.

"The treadmills will need maintenance every two years or so," said Ohwiler, adding that it would cost approximately $300 to $400.

Councilwoman Joyce Caviness pointed out that the center really needed someone to oversee it.

"We really should have someone ultimately responsible for the operations," she said.

Logistics aside, residents in attendance at the council meeting appeared to be chomping at the bit to see the project go forward and let the council know.

"I think this is a great thing for our community," said Inez Valdez. "So stop the bickering about what's not going to work and start out positive."

It was Harrison who brought the closure when he made a motion that city officials open up the budget, see if the money is available and, if it is, to move on the project before the next council meeting.

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