SANBORN -- Two years ago, Niagara County Community College made $2 million in improvements to its health and physical education facilities with the idea they could be used by the public as well as students and staff.
In January, the promise that Niagara County residents can use the school's Health Education Center may finally be realized.
Continuing Education Director Nicole Bevacqua said the college hopes to open the facilities to the community from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Saturday for the spring semester, beginning in late January.
The plan is to charge a $20 membership fee to anyone who wants to use school health and physical fitness facilities for a semester to see if there's enough community interest. The idea would have to pay for itself, since three staff members will be required to supervise.
"At the conclusion of the spring 2008 semester, we will determine if the number of participants can support keeping the Saturday Activity Day a self-sustaining entity," Bevacqua said.
Before anything is done, however, she said the proposed program has to be reviewed by the county attorney and risk management offices to make sure the move is legal and that the college doesn't open itself up to lawsuits.
Joan Wolfgang, president of the college board of trustees, said: "The people at the county level have to examine this because we cannot expose the college to the liability of letting someone who's a time bomb with a heart condition come to the wellness center, use one piece of equipment, and he's out. So the risk manager and the legal department are going to decide if we can allow this, because that was our intent" when the new facilities and equipment were installed.
Problems could arise if someone using the facilities is injured.
To avoid that, Bevacqua said, "Any community member can use the Health Education Center, but you have to pass a health risk appraisal by filling out a sheet when you get here that [asks] if you have any heath problems that should prevent you from using college equipment and facilities. And you have to sign it."
If a person has a problem, she said, staff members are qualified to answer health- and exercise-related questions.
Bevacqua said people who participate will be able to use the Health Education Center's cardiovascular and weight resistance equipment, the small gymnasium, the three racquetball courts and the swimming pool when it reopens.
The fitness center contains treadmills, elliptical trainers, a recumbent bicycle and other exercise machines, along with free and universal weights.
Once the college gets the all-clear, Bevacqua said, the board of trustees and NCCC President James P. Klyczek can notify her department to go ahead with the program.
Trustee James Roscetti said that similar programs are held at Niagara Falls High School and that things have worked out well there.
If the program is a go, Bevacqua said, she will get the word out to the community by advertising in local newspapers and in the school's "Continuing Education Tabloid," which is distributed to most county residents.