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Gymnastics facility has bad balance with city

Staff writer

City officials decided to sit down with the owner of a gymnastics operation and have a discussion with him before deciding whether to forgive $2,000 in rent to the local business.

Don Carter, who owns Skywalkers Trampoline and Tumbling Academy that has facilities throughout the region, rents the city-owned building at 828 N. Roosevelt St. for $740 a month. He is currently $3,000 behind in rent payments to the city, officials said.

Carter, who declined to comment for this story, wrote in a Jan. 8 email to the city that his business lost $2,000 when in November of 2013 a cold snap made the gym too cold to use.

“We had to close the gym due to lack of proper heating,” Carter said in the e-mail. “At that time, we had many customers who were demanding a discount. We gave half price for a month to make up for it. There was a minimum loss of $2,000 to our business.”

Carter said the heaters that the city installed in the building were “simply insufficient.” Only later did the city bring in a portable heater that took care of the problem, Carter said.

“We feel we should be reimbursed,” Carter said. “We appreciate all the city has done but we are unable to absorb this cost. We would like to apply it to any rent we owe at this time to get back on track.”

The city reacquired the building after a liquidation sale of a banking entity in the county, city administrator Roger Holter said. At the time of the sale, the gas lines and heating system were removed from the building and sold as part of the auction, Holter said.

The city agreed to install electric heat in the building when the lease was signed with Carter on Aug. 1, 2013, Holter said.

However, Carter decided that electric heat was too expensive to operate so he turned it off and only turned it on during practice, Holter said. The problem was that electric radiant heat does not have the recovery capacity of natural gas or propane, Holter said.

Carter canceled classes once last year because of the cold, and that’s when Holter said he instructed city crews to install a natural gas heating system in the city portion of the building that maintains the temperature at 50 degrees throughout the facility. Since then, the city has been picking up the heating bill, which is about $250 a month, officials said.

“Until we have a permanent purchaser or tenant for that building, it’s hard to keep changing based on the needs,” Holter said.

Economic Development Director Terry Jones said that Carter is paying for 3,000-square-feet of space but is using nearly 5,000.

“He is using more square footage than he is being charged for, and we are picking up the gas bill utilities to heat it,” Jones said. “I think we have done plenty for this business. But at the same time, I don’t want to see his business pick up and move. It’s a great asset for our community and our children. It’s also income on a building that is largely empty.”

Council member Chad Adkins said that his daughter attends gymnastics training at the Skywalkers facility. Adkins said he was one of several parents who asked for their money back when the gym closed in late November of 2013. Gymnastics instruction is available several times a week and the facility is used by “a lot of people,” Adkins said.

“I will tell you bringing my daughter there now with the cold snap we just had, it’s still cold in there,” Adkins said. “It is nice to have gymnastics in Marion so we don’t have to drive somewhere else. And our daughter is getting quality gymnastics instruction and that’s awesome.”

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt made the motion to postpone the issue until city officials could meet with Carter.

“I’m not going to give a gift without knowing what the plan is when he’s in arrears to us,” Heitschmidt said.

Last modified Jan. 21, 2015

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