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Frances Meadows fitness center put on hold
Budget concerns push plans toward bottom of park to-do list
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Certified Zumba instructor Julia Carroll leads a group through a workout class Friday morning at the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center in Gainesville. In addition to workout classes, the center planned to add fitness equipment, but budget concerns have pushed off those plans.

Plans for a fitness room in the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center have fallen by the wayside.

And yes, it’s for economic reasons.

Parks officials announced a plan to refashion a 4,400-square-foot meeting room at Frances Meadows into a fitness center in November.

In their proposal, parks officials said adding fitness equipment might boost Frances Meadows’ revenues by making the center more of a fitness destination.

But Gainesville’s Parks and Recreation Director Melvin Cooper said officials put the plan on the back burner in January.

Unsure whether revenue figures would sustain the department through the end of the fiscal year, the board of directors cut about 5 percent from the spending plan in January, Cooper said.

The budget reduction did not cut any of the department’s programs or plans to add bike racks, lounge chairs and lockers at Frances Meadows, Cooper said, but it did reduce money available for employee training and eliminated plans for the fitness center.

Holding onto the $400,000 slated for the center seemed prudent, Cooper said, with revenues uncertain.

“We thought the fitness center was a viable project that could potentially be a revenue source for us, but it was one of those things that — looking at it even deeper and knowing the economic climate that we found ourselves in, too — that we said ‘hey, let’s just hold onto this right now,’” Cooper said.

“It’s better to have (the money) and not need it than to need it and not have it.”

And even though Cooper said revenues look better now than they did four months ago, plans for the fitness center are not included in next year’s budget, either.

“(The board said) ‘hey, let’s step back here. Let’s take a look at this. Let’s be fiscally responsible and prudent in getting through this budget year without having to cut any services that we’re providing,’” Cooper said. “But at such time when the economy may improve — whether it’s a year down the road, whether it’s two years down the road or whether it’s five years down the road — it’s something that they, I think, will revisit at some time. We just don’t know when yet.”

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