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Coventry reviewing Portage Lakes Fitness Center financials

2/13/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Coventry Local School District officials are taking a closer look at the operational costs of the Portage Lakes Fitness Center to determine whether it should be closed.

The fitness center is owned by the school district and has been managed by the Akron Area YMCA since October 2009 at a cost to the district of $3,000 per month, according to Treasurer Aaron Butts.

The 15,000-square-foot center, located next to Coventry High School on Manchester Road, has a swimming pool, whirlpool, sauna, steam room, group exercise classes and a variety of strength and cardio equipment. It is open to adults and students, and one room is used by a high school teacher, according to district officials.

At the Feb. 11 Board of Education meeting, board President Robert Wohlgamuth presented the findings of a review of the center’s financials from 2011 to 2013.

According to Wohlgamuth, those findings found there were 671 members, with 37 percent of them being residents of Coventry, and the others coming from surrounding communities such as Akron, Barberton, Doylestown, Green, Massillon and Norton. The numbers do not include members of the Silver Sneakers program, according to Wohlgamuth.

In addition, he reported the center’s membership income and total revenue was “trending down” for the past three years while operational costs remained level, with a few spikes, including telephone costs during October through December that are being looked into further.

Wohlgamuth told a crowd of more than 40 people, mostly members of the fitness center attending the board meeting, the district is losing $3,000 a month on the center.

“We know it’s a very important facility for everyone in our community,” said Wohlgamuth. “But we cannot continue to fund it because it is losing money.”

Wohlgamuth stated district officials are meeting with a number of individuals and exploring ideas on how to make the center profitable.

Superintendent Russell Chaboudy added when he first started with the district seven years ago, the center was making a profit of $30,000 to $60,000 annually.

“We have spent a lot of time on this, and we are doing our best to keep the center open,” said Wohlgamuth. “We are not doing anything until June 1.”

A number of members spoke at the meeting.

“I am encouraged and real thrilled to see what you are doing [exploring ideas to make it profitable],” said Jack Finefrock.

A female member presented district officials with a petition containing 434 signatures requesting the center remain open.

Member Richard Hamilton suggested the center do away with lifeguards at the pool to save money, but district officials responded they were needed to keep the cost of insurance rates in check.

Several members complained they were led to believe that if the combined 5.99-mill bond issue and permanent improvement levy passed, the district would keep the center open. The issue was approved by 56 percent of the voters on its third attempt last May. The $28.3 million in revenue from that issue will be used along with $11 million offered by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission toward a $39.3 million construction and renovation project that will include a new high school.

Butts clarified district officials had said it would have had to close the center if the bond issue did not pass as part of district-wide cuts, and he added they cannot use any money from the bond issue to fund the operation of the center, although they can use money from the 1.1-mill permanent improvement fund.

Another member asked district officials to keep the center open at least until the new high school building is complete, which is expected to take about two years.

District officials said they are continuing to review the matter.

In other business at the meeting, the board approved: the purchase of security cameras for four school buildings; the annual renewal of contracts with NEOnet and AT&T; the hiring of several tutors; the salary status change for five teachers due to increased education; and a number of supplemental contracts.

In addition, the board agreed to waive tuition for a foreign exchange student from South Korea for the rest of the school year.

The first community meeting to provide updates on improvements and plans for the new high school is planned for Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. at Coventry High School, 3089 Manchester Road.

The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for March 18 at 6 p.m. at the former Lakeview Elementary School, which now houses the administrative offices, located at 2910 S. Main St.

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