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A city sponsored specialized low impact exercise class for senior citizens and those with special physical issues of concern will continue as is for the time being. The class is led by the City’s Recreation Director Judy Barkley and is held three times a week at the downtown Fitness 7 Athletic Club.

The decision to continue the program was reached after an almost hour long discussion at the March 21 meeting of the Salmon City Council. The dialogue began with the topic of non-binding agreements such as the unwritten understanding between Fitness 7 and the city. There were concerns over the agreement making it appear the city’s financial sponsorship of the exercise class was competing with private sector businesses.

Councilman Jim Baker had raised a question of city program versus private sector conflicts several weeks ago and the matter was referred to the City Finance Committee Team.

At its March 13 meeting the Finance Team came to the conclusion that the city subsidized exercise program, for which participants pay a fee, is in direct competition with the private sector and agreed to recommend against the city’s continued sponsorship of the program. The Finance Team further recommended that the city not enter into any future non-binding agreements such as the one it has with Fitness 7 for the exercise class room rental. The team also recommended that the $600 Fitness 7 room rental bill for October through February be paid. Later in the meeting that recommendation was approved by the full council.

Finance Team Chairman Jim Bockelman said the team’s recommendation was not a mandate to shut down the program. He said he envisioned the program being moved to a city owned facility.

It was later explained that the reason for the Fitness 7 arrangement is not only the space but the needed exercise equipment.

Councilman Ken Hill is the manager of Fitness 7 and therefore abstained from the council discussion as well as the vote however, he did supply information to clarify the situation. He said that Fitness 7 has not complained in any way about the class and in fact wants to see it continue even if that means offering an even lower rental rate. Councilman Jesse Bender said there had been no complaints to the city either. There was just the concern that the arrangement with Fitness 7 could be construed as the city in completion with the private sector.

The discussion also focused on whether or not revenues from $2.50 dues paid per class by each participant were covering city costs. There was a worry over city taxes being used to fund the program and its instructor. It was determined the dues are certainly covering the room rental and Barkley elaborated on the question pertaining to the source of her reimbursement.

Barkley was hired prior to the present administration and before several of the current council members were elected. She explained that when she was interviewed for the Recreation Director position, she and the city officials mutually agreed that the first job priority was for her to establish an exercise program for senior citizens. She said “So I am doing what I was directed to do by the City Council at that time.”

The hour long discussion was in addition to a Public Comment period that included seven local residents offering supportive comments for the physical and social importance of the exercise class as well as for Barkley’s training expertise. Letters submitted in support of the exercise program were read by Mayor Leo Marshall,

After a series of motions and seconds to the motions were made and then withdrawn as new information surfaced, City Attorney Fred Snook brought the topic back to two basic questions. The first was, “Does the council want to continue the fitness classes?” If that is answered in the affirmative he said the second matter at hand would be to figure out a written agreement with Fitness 7 and determine what fee to charge for the class.

It was decided the discussion of fees would be best covered during the annual budget process since that is where fees are determined.

Councilman Jim Baker said he would not vote on whether to continue the program until he could see the proposed fees. He then made a motion to extend the exercise program under the current status until it can be moved through the budget process and its fees can be established. Bockelman seconded Baker’s motion and the council, minus a vote from Hill, approved the decision.

There have been on-going council discussions over the fact county residents benefit from city programs that are being funded by city taxpayers.

As each local resident spoke about the low impact exercise class benefits for seniors Councilman Baker pointedly asked whether the class participant was a resident of the city or the county.

Prior to the city resident/non-city resident tally that took place as the meeting progressed Barbara Miller had suggested that if the city is concerned over non-city residents not paying a fair share for city programs, the city could reduce city resident program fees and issue ID cards. During the council meeting’s final Public Comment opportunity Miller took great exception to what she thinks has been the council’s long standing attitude towards county residents participating in city programs

She said, “Sorry for the lecture but…you need to cut this stuff out! You’re affecting everybody. We’ve got another 3,000 people living within five miles or seven miles of this city. And I’m one of them. Annex it out. Put higher fees for the people that don’t live in the city. Solve your own problems. Don’t ridicule people because they don’t have the ability to vote for you, because there were a bunch of them out there that wanted to vote in this last election and they were your business owners. So, I wish you’d pep it up a little bit.”

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