Will It Stay or Will It Go? Parks Board Making Final Call on Future of Nat Rate Structure
Over the last several months, the Nat's rates have come under fire by those who say its "w/spouse" memberships are overly restrictive.
This Thursday, all eyes will be on the Cuyahoga Falls Parks and Recreation Board when it makes a final ruling on whether or not to change the Natatorium's controversial rate structure.
Chairman Tim Gorbach arrived at the next and final step following a report by Parks and Recreation Superintendent Bill Lohan and an address by Falls City Councilwoman Diana Colavecchio that were each delivered publicly at April’s parks board meeting.
Lohan based his report on a late-March, closed-door work session he had with Colavecchio, council members Terry Mader and Carrie Snyder, Cuyahoga Falls Law Director Paul Janis and others.
Lohan concluded the board could:
- Do nothing – Wait to see if the Freedom to Marry Coalition can gather 385,000 signatures and put its same-sex marriage equality amendment on the November 2013 ballot. If passed by voters, it would overturn an Ohio Constitutional amendment set in 2004, which restricts marriage to one man and one woman, reports The Huffington Post. The Natatorium bases its disputed “w/spouse” membership on Ohio’s current marriage laws, so the local issue could simply resolve itself on the state level next year.
- Change the language – Eliminate the word marriage from the membership plan, i.e., instead of saying “w/spouse”, the language would read first adult, second adult. The rest of the rate structure would remain the same. The change would circumvent the Ohio Constitution and not present any legal complications. Yet, Lohan said the alteration could cost the city $49,000 a year in revenue losses.
To absorb the losses, Colavecchio proposed the city reallocate a portion of the seven-figure funds it's using to pay off the $30 million gym.
According to the councilwoman, Janis said the Nat's spouse discount was “discriminatory” since the rules that regulate corporate business rates and senior citizen rates are much less restrictive. Lohan concurred, saying the spousal rate was discriminatory, but specified that it was not illegal.
The issue was broached by former Cuyahoga Falls resident Shane May when he and his husband, Coty May, were told by Natatorium staff in January that they could not receive the w/spouse discount because their Washington D.C.-based marriage wasn't recognized in Ohio.
After receiving the same answer from city officials, they grew frustrated, posted an online petition that drew 5,400 signatures. Then they organized a phone-in to Mayor Don Robart’s office in February to attract local and, subsequently, national attention in an attempt to convince city leaders to change the rules.
Since then the issue has been passed back and forth between the parks board and city council members.
Before making a ruling on the issue, Gorbach said the board would "get extremely familiar" with the gym's rate structure and take in what's been said by the public and city officials.
The next parks board meeting will be held Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Natatorium.
Gorbach encouraged the public to come and weigh in before the board gives its final decision.