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Oquirrh Park to solicit donations

If the finances of the Oquirrh Park Fitness Center were human, trustees would strap them to a gurney and roll them through the hallways full speed for the emergency room.

But this is one advanced case of fiscal anemia that even George Clooney can't treat.And Salt Lake County Regional Service Area trustees conceded Wednesday night they will have to turn to their new advisory committee and seek donations from district patrons to help stop the financial hemorrhaging.

Doral Vance, chairman of the new service area board, provided a grim fiscal prognosis indicating the $10.7 million fitness center expansion will run out of funds by March unless the board borrows $2.5 million to complete construction.

He also warned it will take a major fund-raising effort by Kearns residents to pay the loan back without increasing property taxes.

But trustee Laurie Stringham said she believes Oquirrh Park users will respond to the challenge with enough membership sales and private donations to resuscitate the financially ailing service area.

The new board of trustees inherited the financial mess when they took office this year.

Trustees had convened Wednesday with some intentions of surgically removing some segments of the fitness center expansion to relieve Oquirrh Park's fiscal malaise.

But complications developed as several members of the advisory committee formed by trustees earlier this month said they don't want major portions of the expansion eliminated - and they also don't want to see property taxes increased to finish the project.

"The consensus is that things are far enough along that any savings (from cutbacks) will be minimal," said committee member David Richmond. "The things we can cut are only trivial amounts and would just hurt our marketing efforts."

Committee members Linda Hansen and Ellen James said they're convinced good marketing will persuade Kearns residents to come to the service area's rescue by supporting fund-raising efforts and buying an estimated 3,000 family or individual memberships.

But Vance remained skeptical and wondered if committee members were willing to join him in signing the loan documents for a $2.5 million line of credit that will have to be paid back with revenues from the new facilities.

Build it, he warned, and if they don't come, they'll have to pay the bill anyway. "I don't know if we can do it without a tax increase," Vance said.

"I don't think we can," said Stringham, but added she thinks it would be economically unsound to try and delay major portions of the project at this point.

Trustees moved to stabilize its construction finance problems by:

- Directing staff to arrange the line of credit.

- Freezing orders on interior fixtures and "non-essential" exterior landscaping items.

- Seeking bids from two "crisis management" companies that can help reduce construction costs by obtaining lower prices or eliminating certain purchases.

- Supporting the advisory committee's "revenue enhancement efforts" as it develops marketing strategies, sells memberships and contacts potential donors or donor organizations.

Acting executive director Jan Furner said the $2.5 million debt is "a major, major obligation" that will require a large number of people to "buy in" to the fitness center's dream.

But if Kearns residents rally to help the center, he said, "This could become the identity of the community."

"I just hope that this community can come up with $21/2 million," Vance added.