News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 7, 2012

Vigo Annex seeking fitness room

Some equipment already donated

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Vigo County Commissioners next year, likely as early as February, plan to revive a proposed idea to install a fitness room at the Vigo County Annex.

“The idea is to get employees healthy and it could possibly lower our health care costs,” said Mike Ciolli, president of the three-member Board of Commissioners.

Two exercise bikes and two treadmills, Ciolli said, have been donated to the county from Dr. Kayur Patel, who operates the county’s Wellness for Life medical clinic at the annex.

Currently two excise bikes and a large-screen television are in place in an 18-foot wide by 20-foot long room in the annex that commissioners hope to convert to a fitness room. The idea, Ciolli said, was spearheaded by Commissioners Paul Mason and Judith Anderson, who each said they support ideas that can increase the health of workers and lower insurance costs.

Initially, the idea is for the room to be open during office hours, allowing workers to use the room during 15-minute breaks in the morning and afternoon or over a lunch break. It could later be expanded for employees after work hours using card key security locks.

“We are not the first to come up with this idea,” Ciolli said.

Knox County, which has a wellness program, started a fitness center in October allowing workers to exercise before and after work, during lunch break and on weekends. The county spent about $6,000 for a workout area.

The idea for Vigo County was put on hold earlier this year after a request for $44,295 was tabled at a Vigo County Council committee meeting in September. The money, which would be used to buy 10 additional pieces of exercise equipment, would come from what had been tobacco settlements paid to the state, now known as the Indiana Local Health Department Trust account.

The county’s health department had proposed to oversee a fitness program for the fitness room. The department had proposed to evaluate its program by the number of participants and by comparing a baseline of health care costs from September 2012 to health care costs by June 30, 2013.

Joni Wise, administrator for the county health department, said the county would have to reapply next year to the state for the funding as the health department could not meet program timeline requirements for the funds awarded.

Councilman Bill Thomas, D-2nd, is on the committee that voted to table the issue. Thomas said Thursday that while he supports the concept of improving workers health, he questions “is this the best use of $44,000 or $45,000?”

Thomas said the committee wanted commissioners to have a policy in place for use of the fitness room. Ciolli said commissioners now have that policy.

“I would love to re-engage on this with some more thought and a more detailed outline,” Thomas said. He said his biggest concern is whether the room will be used regularly by county employees.

Thomas said he would first like to see a pilot program using the donated stationary bikes and treadmills to see how often the equipment is used. “Do you need to buy 10 pieces of equipment and cross your fingers that they are used. I don’t think so,” Thomas said.

The county should also consider other ideas, such as reimbursing workers for some of the cost of paying for the use of private sector exercise facilities, Thomas said.

Commissioner-elect Brad Anderson said he would support the fitness room “as long as it doesn’t cost the county.”

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.