Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Family fees going up $75

By Perry Schaible
Enquirer contributor

Kelly Cook and her daughter Felicity, 2, enjoy the pool Tuesday afternoon at the Mason Community Center. Fees at the center are scheduled to increase by $75 per year.
Photos by GLENN HARTONG/The Enquirer
MASON - The Mason Community Center is operating in the red, which means residents will have to come up with more green for memberships.

City Council agreed Monday night to increase membership fees for the 18-month-old facility by as much as $75 a year.

A year after it opened in March 2003, the 158,300-square-foot center had a $585,000 deficit, despite 1,038 families paying for the $450 annual membership.

"We hope that one day it will actually pay for itself. I'm not so sure that will ever happen, but that's what we need to work toward," said Mayor Peter Beck.

Council approved a $75 increase to all family memberships, making a resident family pass $525 a year, a corporate pass $640 and a nonresident membership $750.

Residential, nonresidential and corporate fees for singles and youth were also increased up to $50. Senior rates were unchanged.

Compared to nine other Ohio facilities, Mason's 2004 residential family membership fees were the third lowest, higher only than the Medina Community Recreation Center and the Blue Ash Recreation Center.

Countryside YMCA in Lebanon charges $886 for a new family membership and $648 for a renewal. The Blue Ash Recreation Center, which is open to residents and full-time employees who work in the community, charges only $40 a year for a family or $70 with access to the fitness center.

Mason resident Kevin Jones is opposed to the increases.

"If you're going to be raising rates, you need to understand you'll be losing members," he said, adding he would rather see a campaign to increase total memberships to make up for the operational losses.

His family purchased a membership to the facility the first year of operation, but let it lapse in year two.

"I voted for it, I wanted it," he said. "I would still want to attend it, but the costs have outweighed the benefits for me."

City Manager Scot Lahrmer predicted smaller increases for 2006 and 2007, with no increases in 2008 and 2009. He said a contract with the Mason City School District, adopted before the opening of the center, dictated a minimum $50 increase per year if the facility did not break even in the first three years.


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