CENTERBURG — Controversy continues to simmer despite the signing of a new contract Monday between the Centerburg Local School District and Mohican Therapy Group to operate the Centerburg Wellness Center at Centerburg High School.
Discontent among some community members surfaced in a letter to the editor from David L. Morris of Centerburg, which appeared in the Oct. 2 edition of the News.
Morris claimed that since MTG has taken over management of the facility, conditions at the fitness center, owned by the school, have deteriorated.
“TVs have not been repaired and/or replaced, equipment has been taken out, the cost of memberships and day-to-day workouts has greatly increased, and now the school and its contractor ... [have] decided to greatly reduce the hours residents of Centerburg, Sunbury and the surrounding area [have] use of the facility,” Morris wrote.
MTG president Robert J. Tiell responded in a letter published in the Oct. 14 edition of the News, denying that the cost for usage of the facilities has greatly increased, saying that annual memberships cost “almost the same” as they did three years ago.
Tiell said that hours would be reduced in January.
“These changes were made due to the minimal usage during the day, low membership numbers and increased wages,” Tiell wrote.
Centerburg resident and former Wellness Center employee Glen Clark, however, counters that numbers of day users are down because of problems at the facility.
“When I was there, we had quite a few people who used it during the day,” Clark said. Clark managed the facility for three years for the then-contracted operator, the Mount Vernon YMCA. Clark said that he remained for some time under MTG, but eventually left after a dispute with the current management.
A certified trainer, Clark feels that MTG’s area of core competency is rehabilitation therapy and that they haven’t met the community’s fitness training needs.
“I don’t want to toot my own horn,” Clark said, “but once I left, a lot of people said to me they’d never go back.” He said that others now go to the YMCA in Mount Vernon to work out.
Clark said that this loss of daytime users in Centerburg was furthered by MTG not repairing some equipment, as well as by the removal of other equipment.
Tiell could not be reached for comment.
rding to the new contract signed Monday, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2010, and runs for one year, with an automatic one-year renewal unless written notice is given to end the agreement, MTG and the Centerburg School Board are required to split the costs of upkeep and maintenance of exercise equipment equally. There is no provision, however, saying that MTG must keep certain equipment on site, nor does it bar them from removing any of the equipment, which is property of MTG.
Despite having taken donations from the public when the facility was being built, the owners and operators make relatively few references to the public, identified as “customers of MTG,” in the contract. Aside from some references to the facility being available to those customers when not required for school use, the only nod to the community at large is a mission statement saying that the “School Board and MTG recognize the community’s need for a Wellness Center to serve the educational, competitive, recreational and other communitywide needs ....”
The mechanism provided in the contract for complaints is for concerned individuals to contact the steering committee, which will consist of the superintendent of the Centerburg Local School District (or the superintendent’s appointee), the president of MTG (or his appointee), two members appointed by the MTG board of directors, two members appointed by the Centerburg Board of Education, and one member selected, by agreement of both parties, from the community at large. The two presidents or their appointees are ex-officio, non-voting members.
Otherwise, the contract does not address the expressed concerns that have surfaced, merely stating the reduced hours in January, which will be from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., then 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays (3 p.m. to 8 p.m. when school is in session); 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays; and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
Clark said that usage by school teams would discourage community members to use the facility in the afternoons, leaving them only very early and very late options.
“I’m retired,” Clark said. “I’m not going to get up at that hour to go work out.”