Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, March 22, 1999

Weight equipment issue continues for Winsted council

By Luis Puga

The agenda for the Winsted City Council included discussion of health club memberships in Hutchinson for city employees last Monday.

But before one group-rate could be mentioned, the council was again discussing donated equipment with patrol officer Mike Larson.

Larson asked the council to suspend making a decision on the equipment that has been offered to the city's fire and police department from a health club in the Twin Cities.

Council member Jeff Albers replied that a decision had already been made.

Larson said he did not have an opportunity to present all of the police and fire department's' reasons at the last meeting, saying he had felt "shut out." He also added that the employees have some more research on the way regarding the issue.

It is not clear whether the complete departments are asking for the equipment, as council members and employees have supplied different numbers of interested individuals. Members of the fire department, police department, and the ambulance service have all expressed interest.

Mayor Floyd Sneer offered Larson 15 minutes to state his position at the next meeting, and encouraged him to also provide a written list of reasons for the council.

City Administrator Aaron Reeves said he had talked to other cities that had accepted similar equipment for employees, but they were much larger than Winsted.

Albers also encouraged Larson to contact Holy Trinity. He said that he had discussion with Trinity and they would be willing to take the equipment and make it available to the whole community.

Larson said he would do that and would hope that the city council would consider the employees' arguments for accepting the donated equipment with an "open mind."

Reeves said that any presentation from any member of the community would receive the council's consideration and the council is always open to changing its mind. He did maintain that the city would "err on the side of safety."

He also provided some quotes for memberships he has gathered from area health clubs.

America's Racquet and Fitness Center in Hutchinson offered $35 per month for a single, and $45 per month for a family membership. The deal would require at least five members and need to be for a year.

Hutchinson Health and Fitness charges a one-time program fee of $20. It does not require a contract, and its corporate rate, due to distance, would be $20 per month rather than $35.

The council did not indicate how much, if any, would be paid by the city.

Albers clarified that he did not mean to claim in the last meeting that the city had paid for the new fire hall. He felt he was misunderstood and he is aware that the fire department made a large contribution to the building of the fire hall.

The council agreed that without the city's support, the new fire hall would not have been built.

The council and Larson also revisited the last presentation and an implication that it did not support the fire department. Larson maintained that his intention was not to make that implication.

Sneer said he did not like one presenter "playing violins" and said, "I hate for a member of a department to come in and cry."

He also said that before this process began, the interested employees should have come to the council and asked if the equipment could be accepted. Larson said he told his superior, but the council did not feel that was enough.

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