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BLOOMFIELD — City officials are exploring options to prevent the closure of the Bloomfield Fitness Center after feedback from the community showed support for keeping the facility open.

The center in the Bloomfield Cultural Complex is currently scheduled to close on Dec. 1. During a special meeting Nov. 2, the City Council approved a $180,000 cut to the general fund budget that included eliminating six full-time and two part-time positions citywide.  Among the eliminated positions are one full-time and two part-time positions in the Cultural Services department, which operates the Fitness Center.

The budget cuts were made to help balance the city's general fund budget in light of lower than anticipated revenue from gross receipts taxes. Gross receipts tax revenue is down about $270,000 in the first three months of the current fiscal year. Officials also project a $750,000 decrease in gross receipts tax revenue for the rest of the fiscal year.

At a City Council meeting on Monday, several Bloomfield residents said the announcement that the Fitness Center would close was abrupt, and they said city officials should have provided them more notice.

Bloomfield resident Jeanne Sategna was among the residents who spoke at Monday's meeting. She asked why the public wasn't notified sooner.

"The city is a public entity. They should ask for input before decisions are made," she said in a phone interview today.

City Manager Eric Strahl said city officials could not say anything about the possible closure of the center until the City Council approved the cut. He said there were legal concerns because the cut involved layoffs.

"We couldn’t say anything publicly until the City Council had taken action," he said.

Closing the Fitness Center would save the city about $39,000 this year and about $114,000 in next year’s budget, according to Strahl.

Based on input from residents, city officials are examining a number of options. Ideas being considered include having a private entity operate the facility, reducing the hours of operation and increasing membership fees for the nearly 400 people enrolled at the facility.

During the meeting, Sategna asked the council why the Bloomfield Aquatic Center remained open while the city planned to close the Fitness Center.

Strahl said the city has a contract with the Bloomfield School District to operate the pool for swim classes. He said officials also discussed the possibility of closing the Bloomfield Public Library.

Several members of the center this afternoon said the facility is an integral part of their lives.

Bill Herrera and Scott Mahon both use the center about three days a week.

As he pedaled on an exercise bike, Herrera explained he exercises at the facility to manage his heart condition.

"We weren’t expecting it," he said about the facility closing. "A lot of us depend on (the Fitness Center), some for recreation and myself for medical reasons."

Mahon, 87, has been a member of the center for about 10 years. He said he likes how low-key and quiet the facility is in comparison to other fitness centers.

Mahon pays a reduced membership rate of $90 annually. He said he would pay the regular membership rate of $150 if the city keeps the facility open.

"It’s become an important part of my life," Mahon said.

Strahl said he is putting together ideas for councilors to review about how to proceed with the Fitness Center for the next City Council meeting on Nov. 28.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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