The Giambra administration proposal to spend $128,000 to create an exercise facility county workers can use for free is an ill-timed idea, and the level of tone deafness is astounding.
Hundreds of Erie County workers lost jobs following last year's financial meltdown, libraries closed and the noose around the county's fiscal neck continues to tighten.
In that context, here comes an idea to give county employees a free, convenient exercise facility. They already get 15 sick days, paid lunch breaks, summer hours and a dozen paid holidays, adding up to 332 hours of paid time off, a lot more than what average workers without their own gyms receive.
And while this may be $128,000 from a state grant to renovate 2,440 feet on the Rath Building's sixth floor, adding shower rooms and buying stationary bikes, treadmills, Bow Flex machines and other equipment, it's still taxpayer money. This is a take-it-or-leave-it grant that cannot be transferred to other needs. OK, but there's also the cost of staffing, maintenance, liability and supplies that would annually fall to the county.
Yes, the gym would help reduce costs and enhance productivity of county workers. It would be a positive step that can reduce absenteeism and cut the number of sick days taken and overtime paid. A healthier work force, even if morale is at rock bottom, is a less-expensive work force. But Legislature Health Committee Chairwoman Cynthia Locklear, D-West Seneca, makes an equally good point when she says this would be fine in easy times, "but these are not really good times."
The county should offer its employees a discount at the nearby county-owned, beautifully equipped Burt Flickinger Center. The walk from the Rath Building will be good exercise.