City considering $72 maintenance fee for non-resident Rec Center members

by Jeff Saunders | Reporter Published:

Macedonia -- City Council is considering an ordinance that would immediately impose a $72 annual maintenance fee on members of the Macedonia Family Recreation Center who are not city residents.

The ordinance, which is expected to come up for third and final reading at Council's Feb. 28 regular meeting, was introduced by Council President Ken Martin.

Martin said at a Feb. 21 Council work session that he believes the fee will earn the city enough to help pay for needed improvements, including replacing exercise equipment and repaving the parking lot and for building maintenance.

"We're looking easily at half a million dollars a year," he said. "The fact of the matter is we cannot continue to fund the Rec Center at its present level."

Martin said he believes that even with the fee, the Rec Center is a good deal for non-residents compared to other public recreation centers and private gyms.

"The reason so many people go to our recreation center is because it's cheap," he said.

Martin also said that surrounding communities chose not to participate in the construction of the Rec Center in the late 1990s, leaving much of its costs to be bourne by city income tax revenue.

Parks and Recreation Director Angela Gmerek said that while she agrees with Martin's goals, she fears that the fee will result in the loss of many non-resident members, who make up about half of the roughly 4,900 members. She said she would prefer raising additional revenue through membership fee increases, not by tacking on a separate fee which can be more alienating. She also said she considers Twinsburg's recreation center to be a competitor, which Martin said he disputes.

"I see what the goal is. I don't see eye to eye and agree with the way to do it," Gmerek told Council.

"This is not a common practice and I think we're going to price ourselves out," she added, referring to the proposed fee.

In addition, non-residents already pay higher membership fees than residents. According to the Rec Center's website, for example, an adult resident, age 19 to 61, pays $207 annually while a non-resident would pay $340. By comparison, the annual rate at Twinsburg's rec center, according to the city's website, for an individual 18 to 64 is $228 for Twinsburg residents, $303 for Twinsburg Township and Reminderville residents and $348 for all others.

Councilor Shane Barker, who serves as Council's representative to the city's advisory Park's and Recreation Commission, and at least three of the five commission members also say they are opposed to the fee. Barker said he believes that Gmerek has done a good job, including stabilizing the Rec Center's finances.

"I think we need to follow her advice," he said.

Barker also said that residents receive a 100 percent income tax credit for taxes they pay in another municipality for rates of up to 2 percent and he believes most of the income tax revenue the city receives is paid by non-residents who work in the city.

"Macedonia income tax payers pay the tax, not Macedonia residents," he said.

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9432

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