by Kate Shunney
Morgan County Commissioners on Wednesday, May 17 approved a move to buy Rankin Fitness Center in Berkeley Springs to turn the private business into a county wellness facility.
Following a closed Executive Session discussion about real estate — the latest in several closed sessions on that topic — commissioners voted to have the Morgan County Building Authority enter into an agreement with Rankin & Associates LLC to purchase the local physical therapy and fitness center facility for $3.65 million.
A final purchase is contingent on the county securing a $2.15 million, 30-year loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture at a 3.75% interest rate, said Commissioner Joel Tuttle. The sale is also contingent on a “favorable analysis” of the structure of the building, Tuttle said.
The facility is located at 23 Fitness Lane, near the Best Western hotel and Angus & Ale restaurant in Berkeley Springs.
Commissioners said the facility would become a county wellness and recreational facility — something county officials have talked about for more than a decade.
“We’ve talked for years about a recreational building on the 16 acres by the ballfields,” Tuttle said. Buying the fitness center would let the county expand their recreational offerings.
Recent discussions about a need for a public fitness center came up after Valley Health’s physical therapy facility decided to drop the fitness memberships they once offered.
Tuttle said Commissioner Sean Forney reached out to Kelly Rankin, the local businessman who built Rankin Fitness Center in Berkeley Springs, and asked about the possibility of buying it for the county.
Currently, there is a company using part of Rankin’s for a physical therapy practice. That company will remain a tenant of the building for several years under their current lease if the center comes under county ownership, Tuttle said.
Commissioners are prepared to make a $1.5 million downpayment on the fitness center. Tuttle said $1.25 million of that will come from American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds and $200,000 will come from the current Hotel/Motel tax fund. Another $50,000 would come from the 2024 Hotel/Motel fund.
Payments on a $2.15 million USDA loan would come to $9,957 per month for the county. Tuttle said the facility is expected to generate cashflow through lease income and fitness center memberships.
The purchase of the facility could close within 120 days, Tuttle said, if the sale contingencies are met.