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Published August 17, 2012, 06:00 PM

Free Gym Memberships for Area Law Enforcement May End

A free ride may be ending for some county employees who are currently paid to work out and it could free up some taxpayer money to be used elsewhere.

By: Stacie Van Dyke, WDAZ

A free ride may be ending for some county employees who are currently paid to work out and it could free up some taxpayer money to be used elsewhere.

Since 2005 Grand Forks county has paid thousands of dollars for all of its law enforcement and corrections employees to work out for free, but with the opening of Choice Health and Fitness just a month away that might all be about to change.

Sheriff Bob Rost: "We can find a facility with a cheaper fee, but will they even use that facility?

Right now, the county pays $12.60 per month for officers to work out at Center Court

Ed Nierode, Director of Administration: "This is a program that becomes expensive. Very expensive."

John Schmisek, County Board Chairman: "Fees aren't going to be what they used to be."

Choice Health and Fitness would raise that fee to 53 dollars per person, with minimal discounts depending on the plan chosen and how many employees agree to pay a fee.

Debbie Nelson, County Audior: "If we can't get 250 employees to agree to it I think we could get 75"

With no extra money in the budget county officials are looking at changes to make to avoid having to cut the project entirely.

Nierode: "It's a hit on the budget that's all i can say."

Law enforcement agencies claim we need to be paying these gym memberships so their employees can "provide a higher level of service to tax paying public."

Rost: "It's a strenuous job. You have confrontation and you need to be physically fit if you're going to handle these situations."

Bret Burkholder, Head of Corrections: "It's a lot cheaper to pay this than workers comp for an injury."

But it may be flushing tax payer money. Currently the county pays for 125 memberships to Center Court but many aren't even used.

Bridgie Hanson, Juvenile Administrator: "There are a lot of people that aren't even members of center court."

Rost: "I think it's up to the individual. You have to meet the standard. We have to be more accountable to taxpayers and stop paying for something we're not using."

The rates won't go up until the end of the year so county officials have a few months to weigh their options.

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