By Naomi Hatch
The Snowflake Town Council held their regular meeting of Tuesday, Feb. 26, with just one action item, which was to discuss and possibly approve improvements to Suite A of the court building and to rent that building to Mountain Multi Fit, a sport performance and fitness coaching center.
Mountain Multi Fit has three partners, Lynn Johnson, Josh Raban and Jeremy Neff. All are personal trainers and Johnson has 25 years experience as a physical therapist.
In backup material they state, “Our goal is to effectively utilize Snowflake city property Suite A in a manner that benefits the health and wellbeing of the Snowflake/Taylor communities.”
“For probably a couple of years now we’ve talked about what we call Suite A, the north end of the court facility,” said Town Manager Paul Watson, noting they had put some weight equipment in that suite to facilitate their own staff. “It was very antiquated.”
Watson said that the roof leaks and there are issues with the HVAC unit. “We, as an administrative team, talked about trying to bring that up to a standard where it would be usable and we could equip it in such a way as to develop health and wellness,” he explained.
The Mountain Multi Fit partners expressed interest in the facility initially, discussing their goals and the town’s goals to “see if those things are compatible.”
Watson said that the partners had a presentation for council, but it did not have a lot of detail, it was more of a concept. “Our interest is to find out the council’s desire for the concept before we spend much more time and energy,” said Watson.
“The proposal is, we as a town would fix up the facility, just doing the things necessary to make it usable…In exchange for that they come in and bring in the equipment in lieu of rent,” explained Watson. “We would have the ability to have it available for our employees’ and volunteers’ use, and they (Mountain Multi Fit partners) would have it available to use for their programs they’re going to run.”
It was estimated it would cost the town $20,000 and Mountain Multi Fit would put in $30,000 into the facility, mostly for equipment. In return for no rent, they would offer Snowflake/Taylor Police Department employees, firefighters and other town employees their services at no charge.
It was acknowledge that if the facility were to be improved for a business, it would cost the town much more than $20,000, and that it would cost $10,000 for needed repairs just to make the facility usable by town employees.
Mayor Kelly Willis said he had some questions and for approximately an hour and a half, he repeated his concern about using town assets for something that would serve some and not serve others.
“I think there might be some legal things we need to be aware of,” said the mayor.
Willis was assured that this would be no different than renting a town building to the court, the postal service or any other entity.
Over and over the mayor expressed his concerns, often commenting, “I think the idea is a great idea,” but he was concerned that the town staff would benefit at no cost, but using 100 percent taxpayer dollars.
The wellness aspect was pointed out and that there is a wellness program in place.
Vice Mayor Jason Whiting said he saw the issue as two separate goals that could, perhaps, be intertwined or perhaps they could not be. “I like the concept,” he said, but noted that he felt they needed to look at the numbers, such as what the town’s cost would be and what Mountain Multi Fit’s cost would be. “We need to look at the value… so we can make an informed decision…We’re not making that decision tonight.”
“What is your concept, what are you trying to accomplish with the space?” asked Johnson, noting that with those answers they could sit down together and make goals.
“In exchange for my services, I’m getting rent. It’s not a free service, not to the town, not to anybody who goes there,” explained Johnson.
At times the mayor spoke more passionately about the issue, reiterating his feelings that employees were getting another benefit that taxpayers were funding.
“I know what my employees make and you throw in their benefit package…I know what the income of this town is,” said Mayor Willis. “I’m telling you right now that they make fairly good wages and then add their benefit packages, I’ll guarantee you theirs is far and above many, many of the employees in this town.”
At one point Watson defended the town employees, noting that for the past five years they have given no raises, they have decreased benefits and they have increased the amount of contribution the employees pay. He went on to say that he understood the economy and the fact that they have lost a major employer, stating, “I’m not trying to belittle that in any way, shape or form, but I’m going to defend the employees and say we haven’t given any raises in five years.”
“I like the idea of the wellness for employees. I like what they’re wanting to do” said Whiting, noting that he thought they should have a clear line of what the cost is, what the benefits are and what the negatives. “Then we can look at it intelligently.”
Councilwoman Bev Kay proposed that Mountain Multi Fit be charged rent and then deduct according to the number of employees who take advantage of the facility. “It would put the ball in your court,” she said. “That would alleviate us from just saying it’s for all 80 employees.”
Councilman Tom Poscharsky said, “I think we have to come back with some way to give employees incentive to use the facility.”
Mayor Willis asked Watson to get together with Mountain Multi Fit partners and put a package together, stating, “If you sell it, you only have to sell it to four.”
“That’s not the way I work,” said Watson.
“Four people is all it takes, that’s what the law says, so put together a package,” said the mayor.
“This is going to look bad, what I’ve said tonight, it’s going to look bad to the employees of this town. But I have to deal with everything else. Every single person in my town has to have a fair shot.”
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By Naomi Hatch