As the pool season winds down, there has been more consideration as to how and when the Foothills Fitness Center may be able to open. Many residents present at the August 26th board meeting had a lengthy discussion with the Board regarding the variety of challenges we face in attempting to reopen the center. As a community, we still face a viral pandemic that has not changed substantially, nor has the threat of it. We are aware that some gyms have opened in some capacity. Many commercial for-profit gyms have had to make the difficult choice of opening, in a limited capacity, or going out of business entirely. Other community facilities have also reopened, again in a very limited capacity. Genesee falls into neither of these categories. We do not have staff on hand to meet state and county requirements and would therefore have to outsource such services, the costs for which is not currently in our budget. There is no denying that the risk of exposure in a gym is far greater than that of any outdoor activity such as the pool. Because COVID-19 is primarily spread as an aerosol, it is no surprise that the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment rates going to a gym as one of the highest exposure activities one can engage in.
The Foothills Fitness Center poses additional risks due to the spacing and air flow. The gym was not designed as a gym, it was 2 racquetball courts. When the decision to change the courts to a workout area was made, the loft was installed in the front court, but the building infrastructure remained the same. The furnaces have been upgraded but the duct work and air flow remain the same due to constraints of the building. There was discussion on opening windows, fans, etc. These options would be difficult during our colder months. Simply put, we do not believe we can circulate the air in a manner that would be effective to reduce any COVID particles in the air.
The layout of the gym is designed for circuit training with small corridors to pass by multiple people. To create a flow that guarantees social distancing it was discussed to limit the number of machines one person could use, or removing some equipment. The usable space in the Fitness Center is another challenge. Per our initial estimates, we estimate that 8 people (total upstairs and downstairs), would be the absolute maximum number of people in the gym at any one time. Concerns were voiced during the meeting that would this effort be worth the number of people we would be able to serve and yet, we would still face a serious risk.
As we experienced with the pool, there are strict cleaning requirements that we must follow to open the gym. Voluntary efforts are not sufficient nor reliable. We would need to have dedicated personnel to check the guests in, monitor social distancing and mask wearing, and clean the bathrooms and machines every hour. If we assume COVID-19 is still a public health issue next year, we face the fitness center costs and additional costs for pool operation for both pools. Last year our budget was able to see a temporary lull due to the fact we only had to budget for operation and payroll for one pool and a year off from heavy fire mitigation work. Our 2021 budget will include these recreational costs as well as more labor to provide in-house forest health and fire mitigation work, one of our biggest priorities.
The Finance Committee began the budget process in July, and since then we have been working hard to cut costs in all areas of our operations. If COVID-19 were not present next year and we had the noted items above, we would be looking at an approximately 3% increase in assessments. If we were to just open the pools, with the same operation as we currently have with lifeguards, we would see a roughly 7%-7.25% increase in assessments. If we opt to open both pools and the Fitness Center (estimated at 8 hours per day, 7 days per week), we will see a range of 9-10% increase. Obviously, there are ways to reduce the budget by reducing hours, days, etc.
Money aside, it is difficult to negate the high public health risk of a gym. This is not an easy decision and it is certain there are no clear answers. Of course, we will continue to monitor the situation.
Board of Directors