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Greenwood revises fees for center

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Families who dropped their Greenwood Community Center memberships when family passes were eliminated have been heard, and a family rate is coming back.

The newly proposed $260 membership, which would include five members per household, would cost about twice as much as Greenwood residents paid in the past for a family to use the community center’s treadmills, weights and pool tables.

The community center raised its rates in January after the parks and recreation department lost much of its funding for capital projects, such as building new sections of outdoor trails, due to property tax caps. The department also hasn’t had budget increases to cover growing operational costs, director Rob Taggart said.

The fee increases are intended to help the community center cover its expenses after years of too-low prices, he said.

After the increases were announced, residents raised concerns and some dropped their memberships. In addition to eliminating family memberships, residents also complained about a change to senior memberships. The city changed the age for a senior membership from 55 to 65 and raised the price. A senior membership cost $45 per year for adults ages 55 and older in 2013, but starting this year adults had to be 65 to be eligible for the the new senior rate of $65 per year.

After hearing from residents, the city hosted a forum Wednesday where residents could discuss their concerns and raise questions about the changes. About 20 people attended, and topics ranged from a request to refill the community center gym’s paper towels more often to questions about how the city can afford a $10 million pool yet has to raise individual gym fees.

Taggart told residents the city park board has listened to the concerns and will make 55-year-old residents eligible for the senior rate again and will reintroduce a family pass after its meeting in March. Currently, without the family pass, a family of two adults and three teens younger than 17 pay $350, while the 2013 family pass cost $135 for the same family. The new price for a family pass will be $260, he said.

During the forum, resident Vickie Peters asked the parks department to raise rates over the course of several years, rather than all at once.

“We really got behind. There’s just not enough time,” Taggart said.

Peters said she isn’t sure if she’ll buy a membership to the community center again due to the change to the senior fee.

“I’m already paying taxes to this organization. It really bothered me,” she said. “It’s the principle of the thing.”

After studying the prices of memberships at other gyms, such as Community Church of Greenwood’s facility The Gathering Place, the parks department set the community center’s new fees, youth programming and activities coordinator Nicholas Schwab said. The rates are competitive for the services offered, he said.

“We’re not the highest, and we’re not the lowest,” he said.

The difference is that tax dollars fund the Greenwood Community Center, not the other facilities, resident Alex Smith said.

The rates shouldn’t be competitive but should be very cheap for residents, he said.

“That burns me,” Smith said.

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