Clearly one employee was in disagreement with the $40,000 decision to install employee showers for those who opt to bike to work or exercise during their lunch break at Fort Worth’s City Hall.
It seems that City Hall was rather justified in its decision, which could ultimately save a significant amount of money in terms of medical costs and compensation of its employees. However, I’m curious as to how they went about addressing this plan that would make someone so distraught.
Apparently at least one Fort Worth city employee was upset enough about a plan to spend $50,000 to install five showers at City Hall for workers who bike to the office or exercise during lunch that he or she tipped off the Star-Telegram’s Watchdog.
The tip wasn’t necessary; two local TV stations covered the story after the item appeared on a City Council agenda for approval.
The shower and locker rooms will provide two stalls for women, two for men and one that is accessible by people with disabilities. The money will come from the deferred replacement of an air-conditioning system at the Animal Care and Control Center that was scheduled for this year.
The shower project sounds reasonable and wise considering the city is self-insured and is promoting programs and activities to improve workforce wellness.
With a city staff the size of Fort Worth’s (6,200 full-time workers), if just 5 percent of inactive employees begin exercising it could produce savings of $500,000 a year in increased productivity and reduction of workers’ compensation and medical costs, according to a study by the Wellness Council of America and the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity.
Opponents of the expenditure, which turned out to be less than $40,000 according to the city facilities manager, argue that the showers will rarely be used since most employees live outside city limits and don’t bike to work.
Actually, more than 60 percent of the general employees live within city boundaries; about 2,500 work in or near City Hall.
It’s the majority of civil service police and fire employees who live beyond the city limits. And guess what? They already have access to city-provided locker rooms with showers.
In recent months, the city has created more than 10 miles of bicycle lanes as part of its Bike Fort Worth plan to help change the commuting culture. It makes sense to provide employee conveniences that might encourage others to use bicycles as a safe alternative to the automobile to get to work.
To bring about this change, bike commuters need a place to change.