Petal board seeks solution to funding cut for exercise program

By HASKEL BURNS,

The Petal Board of Aldermen has agreed to work with a local gym to provide a trainer and location for the Petal Senior Exercise Class after funding for that purpose recently was cut off.

About 15 members of the class attended Tuesday night’s board meeting, including JoAnn Bourne-Davis, who spoke on behalf of the group and explained the class needed help from the city on funding in order to continue. After listening to the situation, Mayor Hal Marx said the board will be in touch with representatives of Kinetix Fitness on East Central Avenue to help provide services for the exercise class.

“They have supposedly offered some free services,” he told Bourne-Davis. “I don’t know what all the services would entail – some type of fitness service, for free, for seniors.

“Let’s look into that and talk to them and see what they’re willing to do for you, because I think they actually wanted to do it as a service and provide that for y’all.”

Space and an instructor for the Petal Senior Exercise Class had previously been funded from the budget of the Petal Center for Seniors and Veterans, at a cost of about $200 per month. The class had been meeting twice a week at the senior center and Petal Civic Center, but Marx said funding was halted after concerns were brought of by some of the senior center’s members.

“We had seniors at the center who were concerned that their activities budget was going to run out due to paying for the exercise class, and not many regular attendees of the center were participating in the class,” he said. “So this wasn’t something that the board originated – it was originated by seniors at the senior center. It’s kind of an in-house debate over what programs they want funded.”

Bourne-Davis said when the senior center was in its previous location on South George Street, the group had ample space for the class at that site. But after the center moved to East Central Avenue in 2016, the group, which averages about 12 to 15 members, found itself with a lack of adequate space.

“As a result, it is considered by some that our class members are somehow not regular senior center participants,” Bourne-Davis said. “In fact, our class is the largest group associated with the center, and the only physically active group of participants.

“We are seniors who, for the most part, are on fixed incomes, so to suggest that we could afford to pay a competent instructor a monthly stipend is unrealistic. We’re doing our part to stay healthy and to promote Petal as a viable retirement option for other seniors.”