Chris Van Horne, Fort Worth Reporter
While it may sound like a luxury, the City of Fort Worth says shower facilities for employees is necessary to get more of them physically active and fit.
The city of Fort Worth has been encouraging its employees to ride their bikes to work as part of the city's Wellness Program for several years now. But in an Informal Report to the city council, city manager Tom Higgins says the lack of shower facilities at City Hall has "hindered" more people from both.
Shower facilities have long been talked about but have never come to fruition, according to the city's wellness program director Vicki Tieszen.
However, that is changing.
City staff are already working to install five showers, all private stalls, in an area of the lower level of city hall known as "the tunnel," where the Office of Emergency Management was once located. There will be two men's showers, two women's and one for ADA employees.
City staff and the city council believe that by adding the shower facilities, more employees will take part in various forms of physical activity either on their way to work or during their lunch breaks.
"I think more people would be physically active at work if we did that," Tieszen said.
The showers will cost the city less than $50,000, though their installation will delay the replacement of an air conditioning unit at the Animal Care and Control Center until next year. While showers may sound like a luxury in tight financial times, Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns said it is worth it because if more employees are physically fit the city will spend less on healthcare costs.
The money we're spending on the showers here at city hall is a drop in the bucket with what we spend on sick employees and taking care of their healthcare," Burns said.
The city has long asked its employees and other employers in the downtown area to promote healthy living habits, such as cycling to work, in an effort to ease congestion and pollution. City staff has responded significantly well, with 56-percent of employees involved in the Wellness Program in some form. That number is more than twice the national average and up from 34-percent in 2002. But city staff believes those numbers can improve even more with somewhere to clean-up.
"That's probably what hinders it most," Tieszen said. "I'm hoping with showers we'd encourage more people to ride their bikes."
"And, we like to have a professional city hall," Burns said. "And we like for our employees not to smell or be sweaty and it's great to now have this resource for them so they can clean up, get back to work and be healthier employees for the city of Fort Worth."
The city council will hear the informal report during its pre-council agenda on Tuesday, but Burns does not expect any objections.
The shower project should be completed by the end of January.