Sheriff’s department seeks to create fitness area for county employees in courthouse basement

YORK – Members of the York County Sheriff’s Department are seeking the creation of a fitness area, to be used by county employees, in the basement of the courthouse.

YSO Captain Josh Gillespie and Sgt. Alex Hildebrand met with the York County Commissioners Tuesday morning, to ask for their go-ahead to start a process that will likely take a good part of this year to accomplish.

Captain Gillespie explained how many other public entities – including the York Police Department and the York Fire Department – have their own fitness areas so staff members can work out there.

“We would like to put this in the basement of the courthouse,” Gillespie said. “And we want to make this a fitness area to which all the county employees would have access. We are excited about the opportunity, as it would help with our healthcare costs, hiring and retention, and make employees more physically able to do their jobs.”

He said the possible location would be in a couple of rooms which are now being used for storage. The items in those storage areas could be moved to different locations in the basement.

“What we are asking the board for, today, is to consider the creation of an extra area for storage,” Gillespie said. “It would cost about $3,000 to do that,” meaning storage cages and secured areas would be relocated/created.

“The possible end cost for the entire project, everything, would be likely less than $15,000,” Gillespie said, “which I think would be on the high side. We are trying to do something good for the county’s employees. And I need to say Sgt. Taylor Samek did a lot of work on this.”

Gillespie noted Sgt. Samek was unable to attend the county board meeting because he currently works nights.

“The offices which currently used the storage areas, where this fitness area would be located, are the veterans service office and the county treasurer,” Captain Gillespie said. “They have both said they are on board with this project, as long as they have a place to put their things. As far as the building upgrades, it would need flooring, a base around the room, some paint and some lighting, nothing major. The main work would be re-doing the floor, as it is now painted concrete which is chipping.”

Commissioner Daniel Grotz asked if the workout area would be secured from the public, Gillespie said it would be. And employees would need to sign a waiver to comply with requirements of NIRMA (the county’s insurance carrier).

“Is the ventilation in that area sufficient for this?” Grotz asked.

“There are HVAC vents,” Gillespie responded. “We would have to look into that, but I still don’t think even if we needed to make some of those types of improvements, we would reach the top end of our estimate.”

“When my church closed, we had to get rid of our assets, so we gave the York Police Department $50,000 for their fitness area and we donated $50,000 to the York Fire Department,” said Commissioner Jack Sikes. “We also gave $50,000 to Greenwood Cemetery and made other donations to local facilities, efforts.”

“I know the York Police Department is putting their fitness area to good use,” Gillespie said. “We got to tour their new fitness area and they track its usage. It’s really being used, officers are using it every single day. It’s a very nice facility. We have two bids from companies for equipment and the lowest bid came from the same company who did theirs.”

“Healthy employees spend less time at the hospital, there are benefits to it,” Sikes said.

“We want law enforcement to be in good condition, so they can do the job they need to do,” Gillespie said. “We want the same for all the county employees and in the long-term, it will save the county money.”

“When we talked about this a couple of months ago, my question was about money,” said Commissioner Chairman Randy Obermier. “We are talking about federal forfeiture money for this. At that time, one question was about how to pay for this without using any taxpayer dollars. At that time, Sgt. Samek said we could get half of the money needed from donations. How do we keep the expense away from taxpayers? And are there any new ideas about the fundraising?”

Gillespie said that was a goal, but also recognized utilizing forfeiture funds come with federal requirements, including that because all the other county employees would also be using the fitness area, some county money would have to be spent as well.

“I think it’s a good project,” Obermier said. “And it’s handy that we have the federal forfeiture money to use.”

He also noted how the York Police Department’s officers helped paint and do some of the work in their fitness area, to save money – and wondered if the same could be done here.

“And you could apply for a York County Foundation grant,” Sikes offered.

“Sure, but we would still have to have equitable sharing,” Obermier acknowledged.

Gillespie recognized how no equipment could be purchased until after July 1, if the project moved forward, because they would have to wait for a new fiscal year as this project has to be budgeted.

“As far as the project itself, I think there is buy-in for that,” Commissioner Grotz said. “If we can keep to using no taxpayer dollars, I think we would all be happy. We can see if we can find donated funds for the floor, painting, etc. – if we could, I’d have no problem with it.”

Gillespie said in talking with flooring contractors, they can provide them with ballpark estimates, “but they would like to have the partition wall taken out first, to get more accurate estimates. So the first step would be to get the (storage) cage set in a different area. We have an idea with our total square feet, but they would really need those things to happen in order to give more accurate quotes.

“I have no doubt we can raise the funds as we have great support from the community,” Gillespie continued. “This community greatly supports law enforcement agencies. I have no doubt people will want to step up and support this project.”

“I think the project is fine and the displacement of the storage items isn’t bad, it’s handleable,” Obermier said. “Maybe the first step, at this point, is to go ahead and do the cage as our expense. And then we can get some harder numbers. We can’t do anything until after July 1 anyway. I’d say we do the cage work now.”

Commissioner Sikes acknowledged how the county has been in the process of replacing old carpet throughout the entire courthouse anyway, “and this floor working would be no different.”

“It has to do with retention and helping keep people healthy,” said Commissioner LeRoy Ott, “and in the end, it could save the county dollars.”

“Any movement we can have on finding donated funds, between now and then, will help us write the check,” Grotz added.

All the commissioners voted in favor of doing the cage work, relocating the storage areas and the materials, as the first step.

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