Health club operator Power Wellness got $50,000 for coming up with an expansion plan for McHenry County College and seemed to be angling to operate the facility.
Tuesday night in a Committee of the Whole meeting, the MCC Board pretty much put the kibosh on the idea.
The night began with a tour of the current health club.
Trustees were impressed at the way staff had used the space. From later comments, it seemed that programs had been shoehorned into pretty much every available space.
“Crunched” was the word Molly Walsh used.
“It does appear to be a bit tight,” Tom Wilbeck observed, wondering if the operation could be expanded to the west and relocating the offices.
Commenting on the fitness center, Cynthia Kisser pointed out that it had not been “pulled out of thin air.”
She said it “bellies the myth that we’re trying to create a health club here where none exists.”
“I really have to compliment you folks on how you operate,” Ron Parrish added. “I’m delighted with the way you have adapted. That’s how we should utilize space–optimize what we have.”
Chris Jenner continued to question the driving force for the expansion program–that is, the job projections in health care.
“It’s nice that we’re making efficient use of space, but at some point we have to see if [we can operate more efficiently,” he continued.
“It is cramped in there,” Linda Liddell said. She noted that that part of the college was “one part fitness” and another part “lab.”
[Trustee Mary Miller was not in attendance.]
Later in the meeting Liddell went back to “the health club,” but was interrupted by College President Vicky Smith:
“It’s not a health club. It’s a fitness center.”
Liddell, who heads the committee comprised of all Trustees, initiated the discussion about need.
“133,000 square feet is out for me,” Molly Walsh led off. She insisted that the college concentrate on teaching and declared,
“We don’t need a third party management.”
She concluded that using a health club as a source of revenue was “not feasible.”
“I like Tom’s idea of repurposing space,” she said.
Wilbeck concurred with Walsh’s positions.
He added that the $9 per credit hour fee should be assessed the students who use the new facility.
“The cost impact should be for the students in that curriculum.”
“An additional 5,000 square feet is acceptable to me. A whole new building is not.”
Liddell observed that the lab should be near the classrooms for the program.
Walsh asked about the possibility of buildouts.
Probably because the fitness center is near the newly re-furbished parking lot, Smith seemed shocked at the suggestion. But, she did suggest that it could be moved under the library where the computer classrooms are now located.
She also pointed out, “We don’t have much lawn.”
“I’m personally not interested in in building a 43,000 square foot fitness center,” she continued. “I’m not sure 5,000 square feet is enough.”
She seemed to settle on 15,000 square feet.
Smith said the Board needed “to look at programming [and] add up what the needs are to meet the programmatic needs.”
Parrish inquired whether thee was something unique about the needed classrooms.
Staff indicated there was. Desks and chairs would not be needed, but the floor would have to be padded and storage areas would be needed.
Liddell agreed with Smith that 15,000 square feet would be needed.
“Without the community clinic,” Smith observed, “only 15,000 square feet” would be needed. With a medical clinic 29,000 would be required.
Liddell expressed doubt that there would be such a clinic.
Smith reminded the Board that Centegra “would like a shot a managing the fitness center” and any medical clinic.
Liddell expressed concern that whatever size was decided upon would meet needs “for 5, 10, 15 years,” as well as having enough space to accommodate senior citizens.
Jenner continues to struggle “with the growth projections.”
“People are moving out of this state in droves. We could be the next Detroit.”
As far as real estate taxes go, McHenry County is the fifth highest in Illinois, Jenner reported.
“People can’t afford to stay here.”
Liddell insisted seniors were not moving.
“They’re not going to be able to afford to stay.”
He also quoted from the Power Wellness study a line that said that “McHenry County residents are aging faster than in other counties.
“Does that mean if I more to Lake County I’ll age slower?
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Walsh interjected.
Smith said a state report had arrived that day showing a significant need for more health professions during 2013-16.
Jenner tried to broaden the discussion to financing options.
“We need to develop an inventory [of what is desired] and prioritize them. That would help us decide [what we need and what we can afford].
“That’s what we’re doing,” Cynthia Kisser rejoined.
She then asked what “a mind body studio” was. “It doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Parrish suggested 10,000 square feet would improve the operation “immeasurably.”
“I’ve seen nothing yet that would convince me to add a building,” he said, suggesting repurposing existing space first.
“I would like to extend that approach to the whole plan.
“You start with what you have and add what you need.
“The future is more in the online hybrid,” Wilbeck added. “It ties into what Ron says.
“I still have a problem of not utilizing the college on Fridays.” (By that he said he mean the campus was “not fully utilized on Fridays.”)
He also repeated his concern that larger lecture halls were not utilized.
“That’s where my mindset is.”
The fitness center faculty informed the Trustees they did not shut down on Fridays and were open Saturday as well.
Kisser said she didn’t see much space that could “be reclaimed in this building” and said, “I’m good with whatever we do.
Walsh questioned a fundamental underlying assumption, that is, college enrollment would grow 3% per year.
“I fear building a building and having it half empty.”
“If you look at the last three years there hasn’t been a 3% [per year] increase.
“2009 and 2010 were an anomaly [because of] the Promise program.
“I fear that will wane in the coming years.”
Liddell suggested that the McHenry County College Foundation might raise enough money to bring the Promise program back.
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The swimming pool received no support. Neither did an indoor track.