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Workers assemble the slide for the recreation pool at the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center Monday afternoon.

Council approves wellness center fee structure

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The Wadena City Council unanimously approved the rates and fees structure for the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center at its May 13 meeting.

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Families will be able to access the gym, fitness equipment, racquetball courts and pools at the $12.4 million facility, which is on track to open in October, for $48.75 per month. Couples will pay $42.08 and single adult membership will cost $34. Seniors, young adults and students will have discounted rates.

'Starting point'

Wellness Center Manager Eric Robb said he strived for an affordability and simplicity when developing the plan, analyzing fees at comparable facilities in similar communities.

"If nothing else, it's pretty competitive, if not a darn good deal," Robb told the council.

Starting some time this summer, 12-month memberships will be available either by paying the full amount upfront (at a two percent discount) or by signing up for an electronic funds transfer. For 20 percent more than the EFT rate, people can buy trial memberships. Memberships cannot be frozen and can only be cancelled for "special circumstances" granted at the discretion of the manager.

Daily passes will also be available - $5 for youth (14-18), $7 for adults (19-59) and $6 for seniors (60 and up). A punch card good for 10 visits within two months will cost those groups $45, $65 and $55, respectively.

Councilwoman Gillette Kempf asked Robb how the membership policy defines family, noting she lives with and shares living expenses with her mother-in-law.

Robb said anyone who is under 25 and on their parents' insurance qualifies.

City Administrator Brad Swenson said "there's going to be issues that come up, but I do not think we can make rate decisions based on individual concerns."

The fee structure could have included seasonal options (for snowbirds, for instance), more age groups, specific family situations and had different prices based on which parts of the facility people wanted to use, but it would be an administrative nightmare, he said. "Where do you draw the line? You could have 100 different rates and staff would spend all the time figuring out where you fit."

The couples rate would apply to same-sex unions, Swenson said.

Mayor Wayne Wolden called the rates and fees structure "a great, great, great first start."

Council members thanked Robb for his work and voiced their support.

"I think it looks good," Councilwoman Jeanette Baymler said. "We know it's going to be tweaked somewhere along the way."

Robb acknowledged that "things do moderate and change. I guess this is our starting point."

The council also signed off on Robb's proposed rental rates for the full facility, gym, meeting rooms and pool.

For the complete membership policy, along with full details about rates and fee structures, go to wadenapj.com.

'Really good deal'

As the wellness center has transitioned from idea to reality, residents have wondered: Will memberships be affordable?

Over lunch Monday, Vince Hinojos said he'll be happy to pay less than $50 a month for his family of five.

"That's a really good deal," he said. "I'm sure we'll be using it a lot."

For Hinojos, membership costs are only one part of the equation. Through fitness, his health has improved enough to no longer need a medication.

"Money's always an issue, but if you can get healthier, that's a savings in itself," he said.

Even with the pool, racquetball courts and other amenities, the wellness center rates will be slightly less than what Snap Fitness charges for monthly membership.

But it will cost more than the smaller, older facility in Staples and the Perham Area Community Center, a comparable operation.

Perham charges $45.60 for families, $38.96 for couples and $31.20 for single adults.

The Staples Community Center offers family memberships for its fitness equipment and pool for $176 a year for residents ($200 for non-residents) and $126 annually for individuals ($152 for non-residents).

Robb said he's trying to make sure the facility is as inexpensive as possible, while raising enough money to be operationally viable.

He pointed out that most insurances reimburse $20 a month for fitness membership, which immensely increases affordability.

"People really have to keep that in mind," Robb said.

The pools alone are worth the price, said Verndale resident Brent Mattson.

"I can see it being people's home away from home," he said. "There's something for everyone. I'm really looking forward to it."

More full-time staff

After the rates and fees discussion, the council unanimously approved hiring another full-time wellness center position, the facility maintenance coordinator.

The person will be "responsible for all the maintenance, preventative maintenance and housekeeping function, including coordinating mechanical operations ... monitoring chemical supplies and HVAC units for pools and buildings," according to the official job description.

The position requires a high school diploma (or GED) and two years of facility maintenance experience "with thorough knowledge of HVAC operations."

Swenson said the goal is to hire someone by mid-August so the employee can be fully trained before the wellness center opens.

He said he and Robb are currently working on the job description for a third full-time employee that will be responsible for multiple tasks, including clerical work and pool management.

Closer to the opening date, Swenson said, the city will also hire a part-time lifeguard, along with part-time maintenance and office workers.

"Eric's convinced me that three part-time (employees) is a necessity - at least to start with," Swenson said. "There's a lot of work in that facility."

The third full-time person would supervise the part-time employees when Robb wasn't there.

"Eric is not going to be there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," Swenson said.

To that, Robb joked: "You got that in writing?"

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