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Parks Board Makes Final Ruling on Natatorium Rates

The Cuyahoga Falls Parks and Recreation Board voted down two motions, 3-2, that were aimed at making the "w/spouse" rate more inclusive.

In a controversial move, the Cuyahoga Falls Parks and Recreation Board voted down two motions, 3-2, at its meeting on Thursday night to uphold the "w/spouse" membership rate.

The motions were based on a “Memorandum of Understanding” drawn up by Cuyahoga Falls Council members Diana Colavecchio and Terry Mader and Broadman Baptist Pastors Chris McCombs and Rick Mangrum.  

The memo was viewed as a compromise measure since Mader, Mangrum and McCombs had previously opposed any change to the spousal rate.

The motions aimed to reword w/spouse to "w/spouse or second adult," said board chairman Tim Gorbach.

The amended language would have allowed for any two adults living in the same local household to receive a discount, he said.

Under the Nat's existing rate structure, the w/spouse rate applies only to heterosexual couples that hold marriage licenses recognized by the Ohio Constitution. Such couples are afforded a yearly membership discount of $260 versus those who hold individual memberships.

Board members Lorrie Shannon, Dick Sebastian and Debbie Ritzinger voted against the motions raised and seconded by Gorbach and board member Bill Santos.

In previous meetings, Shannon and Sebastian expressed concern over how an alteration could impact the gym's revenue stream after Bill Lohan -- the city's parks and recreation superintendent -- said it could create a yearly $49,000 shortfall.

The second motion arose after Colavecchio publicly addressed the board and asked it to reconsider, saying the Nat had $100,000 in savings that it could use to absorb any losses over the next two years.

Roughly 80 people were in attendance, with the crowd pretty evenly split on each side of the issue. 

The matter was first broached by when he and his husband, Coty May, were told by Natatorium staff in January that they could not receive the spousal discount because their Washington D.C.-based marriage wasn't recognized by the Ohio Constitution.

Coty — a U.S. Army veteran who was injured while serving in Iraq — had used the city gym for physical therapy.

Shane May attended Thursday's meeting and offered his reasoning on why he and Coty deserved to be included.

“All I wanted was to make sure my husband got the proper treatment and respect he deserves since coming home from Iraq,” said May. “He fought tooth and nail to protect our country and our freedom and now has to come home and fight for his own.”

THOMAS KANE May 11, 2012 at 06:13 PM
PARKS BOARD AND REC;THANK YOU.I SUPPORT YOU FULLY FOR YOUR DECISION.
Frank Anderson May 11, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Absolutely disgusting. Why should I be surprised to read about the Falls discriminating against non-traditional families? They've been discriminating against black families for years. Of course this wouldn't be any different. I can only hope that parks and rec. loses more money from this poor decision and the bad publicity it has made for the city.
Earl Elevant May 12, 2012 at 05:38 AM
How about some specific examples of the Falls discriminating against black families...?
Larry Kinnan May 15, 2012 at 01:38 PM
I personally would like to applaud the work done by Pastor McCombs, Terry Mader and Diana Colavecchio in trying to work out a solution that was the best compromise that could be found. Residents should applaud these folks for their efforts.
Pastor Chris May 16, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Larry Kinnan thank you for your comments. I do believe that overall this community handled this situation well. There are no easy answers to situations like this, like some think. I was involved and I assure everyone, it is way more complex than an easy yes or no vote or a simple change. The community got involved and exercised their First Amendment rights of speech and religion. Additionally, we got involved as citizens to work for a possible solution that would be best for our community. At the end of the day, the rate change stayed the same. Everyone may not agree with the outcome, but the process, although tense at moments, is something everyone in our community should applaud.
Mike Penta May 17, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Chris, I actually disagree with the statement "the process...is something everyone in our community should applaud." Certainly you, Diana, and others worked very hard to find common ground and propose a workable solution. The problem is the Park Board didn't accept it.

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