A quick update on some encouraging news from the new management company at Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics that was overshadowed by the local election last week. Swim Club Management (“SCM”) CEO Brian Sheehan made remarks during the public comments portion of the town board meeting last Monday regarding a few key areas of improvement. You can listen to his comments from the Nov. 6 board meeting beginning at the 48:50 mark here.
HFFA now has an updated, more interactive website that you can check out here. The site was updated to better enhance the experience of members and has far more information about the facility, including class schedules, than did the old site.
Membership software has been updated to better track who is entering the facility. In conjunction with updating the membership software, SCM intends to audit membership rolls to help better define the various membership categories available and ensure appropriate revenues are being collected for each membership.
Since taking over management responsibilities in early September, SCM has collected approx. $15K in outstanding membership fees and has reduced NSF (non-sufficient funds)
charges in each of their first two full months of processing membership fees. NSF fees were typically being assessed under prior management due to old or incorrect credit card information. These fees were being passed along to the town – i.e., the taxpayers. According to Huntersville Finance Director Jackie Huffman, “for the twelve months in FY 2017, declines and chargebacks averaged $17,131 per month, with a high of $22,677 and a low of 11,831. September and October 2017 have been processed at $15,270 and $10,023 respectively.” SCM anticipates this downward trend to continue due to measures they have implemented to decrease the reliance on credit card payments.
Finally, SCM has added staff in certain areas while at the same time they are projecting annual payroll to be $100K lower than last year. If you add the savings above to the approx. $125K the town is saving just on the management fee alone ($183,564 v. $58,500) SCM has made close to a $250K impact on the HFFA bottom line in just the first two months. But, this is to be expected when you hire a management company who treats taxpayer dollars as they would their own dollars and has an actual incentive to make HFFA profitable.
It’s often hard to tell truth from fiction over the din of local elections, but it’s hard to argue with the numbers SCM is producing in just their first two months at HFFA.
And while we’re on the topic of HFFA – why has the town still not paid a termination fee to the prior management company for 6 months base management fees and for severance? The town was sent demand letters over two months ago by nine individuals with a payment deadline of Sept. 15, 2017, and we’re well past that deadline. It seems pretty easy to figure up the 6 months of base management fees total – $183,564 annual, so $15,297 x 6 = $91,782. Maybe it’s the 8 weeks of severance that is the sticking point. (You might remember the severance language being added to the last minute contract rushed through immediately prior to the 2015 elections…) Again, seems like that would be an easy calculation, so why didn’t those demanding severance just ask for a specific figure in their demand letters? Is it possible no specific figure was demanded so the public wouldn’t find out how much certain members of the prior management company were being compensated?
Funny thing, I saw a figure of $200K cited by at least two people during the recent campaign as the cost to taxpayers for severing ties with the former management company at HFFA – Joe Sailers and Jeff Neely (who currently lives in Davenport, FL where he enjoys making up fake news). No basis was ever provided for this figure despite my requests for more information. It’s almost as if the figure was completely made up as a campaign tactic to damage the four candidates who voted in support of a management change at HFFA. Even if you add the management fee total of $91,782 and the total severance demand of $95,287.29, you only come up with $187,069.29. And that’s assuming the town would ever pay severance to all nine individuals – which, hopefully, the town will not.
HFFA has cost Huntersville taxpayers millions since it opened – not even including the millions in property taxes sacrificed by the town board in July 2000 when they agreed to allow Duke Power to extend the term during which McGuire Nuclear could not be involuntarily annexed into Huntersville in exchange for accelerating tax equivalent payments to the town so HFFA could be built. If you’re reading this and didn’t live here in 2000 which is very likely, the town board members in July 2000, according to Meck BOE records, were Alex Barnette, Tim Breslin, Charles Guignard, Bill Pugh, Jr., and Jill Swain – along with Mayor Randy Quillen. Interestingly, the minutes from the meeting when this agreement was voted on have still not been located…
Let’s hope the positive trends at HFFA under SCM continue so maybe Huntersville taxpayers will be able to use those hotel/motel funds currently going to HFFA for something else one day other than subsidizing exercise.