I’m not usually one to use the cliched trope, “wasting my taxpayer dollars,” but I finally got the opportunity in recent weeks.
During its reopening May 6 until June 9, the Cody Rec Center had been closed to nonmembers out of public health concerns.
This ignores the financial burden other members of the community have already made to the facility through their sales and property taxes.
There are just three known active coronavirus cases in Park County at this time, and sewage tests performed by the City of Cody in late April and late May returned no presence of infection.
I don’t dispute the COVID-19 risks that exist by allowing tourists and non-residents into the building at this time.
That made up part of the decision, according to Rick Manchester, parks and rec director for the City of Cody, to help with social distancing in the facility and allow members first access to the equipment. Furthermore, occupancy caps were set at different locations throughout the Rec Center.
None of these moves I dispute, but why not allow at least some, short time frames when non-members could attend? From my personal experience, I know the later evening hours are relatively quiet at the facility.
My detractors may say something along the lines of, “So bub, why don’t you just buy a membership and stop complaining?”
I’m a pretty active, outdoor-sports focused individual, so I only make it to the Rec Center typically a few times of month. For me, it’s a great option when the weather outside is poor or if I don’t have free time until after the sun goes down. A few visits a month don’t rise to the level justifying buying a membership.
To me, this is mostly a moral issue.
Turning away residents who helped support the Rec Center with $702,864 in city-allocated funds last year is not right. The Rec Center is a public, city-run facility that has now become to a certain extent semi-private.
It would have been incredibly easy to legislate that only City of Cody or Park County residents can access the facility by requiring documents that show proof of address like a utility bill.
Non-members only contributed about 13% of the gym’s entrance revenue this past year and in 2019, non-members made up about 25% of all visitors, so I find it hard to believe that their added presence would provide a risk to the Rec Center community if entry were restricted to local residents.
The Rec Center is now doing the right thing by allowing non-members to attend the facility with a member and allowing people to purchase memberships at the facility. In May there was also the choice to members to either be refunded for the two months it was closed or extend their memberships by two months.
Although the Rec Center contributes to the overall quality of life of the local populace, decision-makers should always make an effort to raise revenue whenever possible so it can continue to reinvest in itself. It’s the least they could do considering the millions that were devoted to its creation.
Hopefully full non-member access will be restored sooner rather than later.