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Hopkins Unsure About Subsidizing Williston Center Memberships

Council members said it would cost too much to allow Hopkins residents to pay resident rates at the Minnetonka fitness center.

The Hopkins City Council isn’t wild about subsidizing visits to Minnetonka’s Williston Fitness Center in order for Hopkins residents to pay the same rates as Minnetonka residents do.

The two communities save money by sharing the cost of recreation programs—and allowing people from both communities to pay resident rates in those programs. But the partnership does not apply to the cities’ individual facilities.

At the Williston center, for example, Hopkins households must pay $72 per month compared to the $58 per month that Minnetonka residents pay. This can cause confusion among those who wonder why they get resident rates in one area and not the other.

Over the years, Hopkins residents have made numerous requests to receive resident rates at the fitness center, a number that has increased since Minnetonka completed a $4.5 million renovation of the facility in 2011, Dave Johnson, Minnetonka’s recreation services director, told Hopkins City Council members Tuesday.

Minnetonka determined that allowing Hopkins households to pay resident rates would cost the fitness center $9,708 by lowering the amount paid by the 207 Hopkins families that already have memberships. In order to offer Hopkins resident rates, the city would have to recoup that amount, Johnson said.

(Rate differences only apply to memberships; residents and nonresidents pay the same price for daily passes.)

Council members were skeptical that the benefits were worth $9,700: “I just struggle with that amount of money,” said Councilman Jason Gadd. “The city’s putting out a big amount of money for a limited amount of our people.”

Virtually all of the council echoed Gadd’s sentiments.

Hopkins wouldn’t necessarily have to put up all the money in cash, though. It could also agree to provide a service for Minnetonka in exchange for a reduction or elimination of the amount it would have to pay. When it’s plowing the Hopkins portion of a Three River Park Trail, for example, it could continue plowing into Minnetonka.

The two cities also partner on Shady Oak Beach. The agreement requires Hopkins to pick up one-third of the maintenance costs and Minnetonka to pay for two-thirds. Minnetonka could deduct the $9,700 from the $19,200 it’s reimbursed Hopkins on average over the past two years.

Hopkins’ cost wouldn’t necessarily stay the same either. As more Hopkins households sign up for memberships, Minnetonka would reduce the amount that Hopkins would have to pay—with the total dropping to zero if the number of Hopkins memberships doubles.

On the downside, the amount that Hopkins would have to pay would be based on the number of Hopkins memberships at the time the agreement was signed. If more joined before that happened, Hopkins would have to pay more.

Hopkins council members aren’t writing off the prospect of an agreement just yet. It’s possible that some combination of reciprocal agreements could bring the cost low enough to make it worthwhile.

“If we can work something out, I think we can do it,” Hopkins Council member Kristi Halverson said. “Let’s find a way.”

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