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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Oct. 23, 200212:00 PM EST

Fitness Center planned for City Hall

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by: Mike Sharkey

by Mike Sharkey

Staff Writer

When the St. James Building was remodeled and became City Hall in 1995, a good-sized space in the basement was left unfinished. Since then, the space has become little more than a storage area. If City Council president Jerry Holland has his way, the space will eventually become a wellness and fitness center for City employees.

Along with Mayor John Delaney, Holland is sponsoring an ordinance that would appropriate $225,000 from several City funds to create a simple fitness center in the basement of City Hall.

“When the building was retrofitted, the space was roughed out for a fitness center, but it was never put in,” said Holland.

Holland said he got the idea after listening to a recent presentation at San Pablo Elementary on corporate fitness and the many benefits of having a healthy work force. According to Holland, companies with in-house gyms have the potential to receive slight reductions on their health insurance premiums.

The start-up costs for the fitness center will come from the proposed ordinance and all future costs such as maintenance and equipment replacement will come from City employees that join for $15/month — a bargain compared to many other gyms in town.

Although the fitness center won’t resemble a Bailey’s or Gold’s gym, Holland said it will have the basic equipment and aerobic machines as well as locker rooms for both men and women.

“We will have some free weights, probably dumbbells and machines such as treadmills and stairmasters,” said Holland. “It will be real similar to what you find at a hotel, but bigger. We will not have anyone working in it.”

Sharon Ashton, Delaney’s press secretary, said the fitness center is long overdue and will only benefit the City’s 7,000-plus employees.

“The space has always been there,” said Ashton. “This is an investment in our City employees. What we are trying to do is keep them as healthy and well as possible to increase productivity.”

Ashton said the center needs Council approval — about a six-week process that includes the Council’s Finance and Public, Health, Safety & Education committees — and about six months to complete construction. The center, Ashton added, will also compliment the City’s other health initiatives for employees that includes a Mayor’s Council on Wellness and Fitness, annual flu shots and cholesterol screenings for employees.

Holland said an informal poll of City workers indicated to him that a fitness center in City Hall would be well-received. Now, the trick is get the project underway and completed before June 30.

“I’d like to get it passed and done before my year as Council president is up,” said Holland. “That’s my goal.”

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