City Council proposes to collect lease payments from FARA athletic facility, which has previously not paid rent

SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Tracie Murray, left, the co-operator of the FARA athletic club, speaks with the St. Helens City Council during a work session Wednesday, March 7. The city is proposing a lease agreement with the athletic facility, which has previously not paid rent to the city due to historical uses of the building and partnerships with past businesses. A fitness club in St. Helens has not paid rent to use a city-owned building, but that might soon change.

During a St. Helens City Council work session Wednesday, March 2, the St. Helens City Council began to discuss potential lease agreement options with Tracie Murray, one of the co-operators of the FARA fitness club on Old Portland Road.

FARA, which stands for Fitness and Recreation Association, was first opened to employees of the former Boise paper mill in the 1980s, but when the mill closed in 2008, the club opened its membership.

When the city purchased the Boise property in 2014, that purchase included the FARA building, but there were no determinations about how to continue the partnership between FARA and its new landlord.

FARA operators own and insure equipment inside the building, but currently do not pay rent to the city to use the building. FARA paid the city $4,800 for two years of taxes, however, according to city finance records.

In a proposed lease agreement, the city would lease the space to FARA for $1,500 a year, or $125 a month. The agreement would be renewed annually for an indefinite period of time, and the city would retain the right to terminate the lease with a year's notice to vacate. Such a termination would likely occur if the city were considering significant development on that portion of its property.

Although FARA is not legally registered as a nonprofit, Murray said she and her business partner are not in it to make money. The club currently has about 100 members who pay rates that range from $25 to $50 a month, depending on how many people are signed up on one account.

Some of the council members said they felt like the athletic facility offered a needed community service, but also said the city needs to be accountable to it citizens and public perception of a business or nonprofit operating out of a city building rent-free.

Murray said she's not sure how she feels about the lease agreement yet, since she and the city are still discussing its final details.

Mayor Rick Scholl said he needs more time and information about FARA's operations and finances before he feels comfortable making a decision. It's not clear when a final lease agreement might be finalized.

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