The Fidalgo Pool and Fitness Center is making changes to their gym’s hours of operation and continuing to navigate the new normal of operating the facility during a pandemic.

The board of commissioners discussed changing the hours of operation at the gym facility during a virtual meeting Thursday. Executive Director Mitch Everton reported that few patrons were using the gym during the weekends, sometimes only four all weekend.

The gym is limited to hosting five patrons at a time, and attendance is overseen by a staff member. The low numbers don’t justify the cost of keeping a staff member on shift during those times, and Everton recommended that the gym only operate on weekdays until cold weather returns.

The upstairs fitness classes are going well, he said. Five people can join the classes in person, but the center also has been streaming the classes virtually for people to follow from home. The audio system used to broadcast the center’s virtual fitness classes has been upgraded as the service has proved to be popular, Everton said.

“We still have a bunch of folks who don’t want to come into the building,” he said.

Meanwhile, the facility has been hosting more swimmers from Bellingham and Oak Harbor. Out-of-town swimmers have to pay a slightly higher fee to use the pool. The Bellingham Bay Swim Team has been renting the pool after hours to get practices in.

“People are just really appreciative of the fact that they have a pool,” Everton said.

Comparing receipts from this July to July 2019, Everton said the center is coming in at about 33% of this time last year. Everton decided to reduce management salaries by 25%.

“I think we need to keep our cash reserves at our low points over $200,000, and this accomplishes that,” he said. Insurance rates continue to present a financial hardship, but the company is allowing the center to switch to quarterly payments to stretch them out.

The Payment Protection Program loan the pool entered into has been forgiven for $157,000.

“Essentially what’s that done is taken us from a net loss to a net income,” he said. “That’s against budget, so take that with a grain of salt, but it’s still very positive.”

Revenue is still down, while expenses are still up.

A pool patron bequeathed 40% of her estate’s annuity to the pool, resulting in a check for $118,000 to the Friends of the Fidalgo Pool group’s general fund.

“This is not a contribution to the building fund, the facility fund — this is basically a contribution to Friends in their general fund and can be used for any purpose,” Everton said.

The working group heading the discussions between the city and the pool about a potential joint community center and pool facility is taking a pause until perhaps October when monthly meetings may return, Everton said.

The group, made up of pool commissioners, city staff and community stakeholders, had been discussing the details on creating a joint facility and received an architect sketch of a possible facility before the pandemic shifted priorities.

A first-draft cost estimate for a facility came to around $63 million, but cost, design, siting and management still need to be finalized for the project to move forward, Everton said.

“I think that’s something we do over the next year, potentially on a monthly basis,” he said. Everton is hopeful that monthly meetings with clear directives can pave the path forward and give the group a good idea of feasibility by the end of this year.

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