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Council approves employee fitness discount

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In an effort to promote physical wellness among town staff, council approved a report providing a discount for memberships at the Memorial Sports Centre during Monday night's council meeting.

After a 4-2 vote, council agreed to offer complimentary memberships to Sportsplex employees and a 25 percent reduction to memberships for other town staff.

Coun. Andrew Hallikas noted that council's rationale was that the health benefits employees receive from using the Memorial Sports Centre outweigh any drawbacks.

“Research has shown that employees who look after their wellness whether it be mental or physical wellness, tend to be productive, tend to take less days off, tend to have better morale,” Coun. Hallikas remarked.

“For us, we thought that this was something that we could do for our employees to encourage them to be healthy.”

Coun. Hallikas also noted that during his time working with unions, employees valued some sort of incentive for physical fitness.

Community Services manager Jason Kabel conducted much of the research on the policy and found that Fort Frances was the only community in northwestern Ontario that did not offer a discount to town staff for use of its recreational facilities.

Meanwhile, Coun. Wendy Brunetta had some concerns around what the discount could mean for taxpayers.

“I don't dispute any of the things your saying about physical activity . . . I completely agree with that,” she said.

"The thing that I'm struggling with is . . . increasing taxes so we can in turn give a discount to employees on a membership.

“I agree that it's a good thing to do, but I don't know if it's a good thing to do on the backs of the taxpayers,” Coun. Brunetta added.

Coun. John McTaggart echoed Coun. Brunetta's comments, and asked town staff how many employees use the facility.

Kabel noted that currently the fitness staff use the facility typically before or after a shift, but in terms of paying town staff members, there was only one.

“The hope is that we actually generate revenue, and staff members will see a 25 percent discount as something attractive and might mobilize them to get a membership and seek further physical fitness,” he remarked.

Coun. Douglas Judson pulled the item from the consent agenda to discuss it so town residents could have a better understanding of the reasoning behind the report.

“I think we're in sort of a financial time where we are asking more of the community in terms of the user fees they pay, the taxes that we levy . . . and so I just want the community to be privy to our discussion on that item,” he noted.

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