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Merrillville residents pay no fees for community center use
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Merrillville residents pay no fees for community center use

From the ICYMI: Here are the most-read stories from the past week series
Merrillville Community Center officially opens (copy)

The Dean and Barbara White Community Center in Merrillville features a fitness area open to the public.

MERRILLVILLE — It just became much more affordable for Merrillville residents to access the fitness center, basketball courts and rock-climbing wall at the Dean and Barbara White Community Center.

The Town Council has adopted an ordinance that allows residents to use those amenities at no cost.

Coming Sunday, ride along with Specialist Dyer as he patrols LaPorte.

Town Councilman Shawn Pettit said taxpayer money will fund a $12 million bond issue that was used to build half of the community center at 6600 Broadway.

“It is absolutely unfair that we charge the Merrillville residents to get in that center,” Pettit said. “So from this point forward, I encourage every Merrillville resident that’s paying for that center to visit that center.”

Before free access was allowed for Merrillville residents, the standard fitness center fee was $4 each day, $20 for one month and $55 for three months. Council President Rick Bella said refunds will be issued to residents who already paid to visit the fitness center.

Councilman Leonard White and a resident asked if Merrillville could still make money if free access is granted.

Pettit said the town can offer the benefit to residents because the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation awarded the town a $10 million gift to fund community center operations.

He said Merrillville also received more than $750,000 in sponsorships of different areas of the community center. The town also is generating funding from other charges, such as fees to rent the event space and courts there as well as tournament and programs fees.

“Money is being made,” Pettit said.

He also said nonresidents will still be charged to access the fitness center, basketball courts and rock-climbing wall.

The standard nonresident fitness center fee is $6 for daily access, $40 for one-month and $85 for three months.

Pettit said work continues in some areas of the community center.

He said contractors are building the concession stand for the outdoor athletic field. Concrete pads also will be installed for units that will store equipment for youth sports leagues that use the field.

Pettit said work also will begin to clear trees for a walking path and pedestrian bridge that nearby residents could use to walk to the community center.

“Which we hope to still have done this year,” Pettit said of creating the path and bridge.

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