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Retired military members getting the boot from Rome gym

By GARY LIBERATORE

ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) - Retired U.S. Air Force Sgt. Melvin Derr of Rome says he was in shock when he received a letter in the mail recently.

The letter was from The Colosseum Executive Stakeholders Group, a group which oversees the running of the government funded gym facility in Rome called 'The Colosseum.'

It told Derr that he would no longer be allowed to use the facility as of March 31.

Derr decided to hold a protest with other retired military members and on Monday morning, they set up at the corner of Hill Road and Brooks Road inside the Griffiss Business and Technology Park, not far from The Colosseum.

The Colosseum is funded by three government entities: EADS, DFAS and AFRL.

Derr says he has been attending the gym for six years and loves it. He says it keeps him healthy and that saves the government money in the long run, so he is perplexed at why he and others are getting the boot.

The letter states that "other larger military institutions traditionally organize, fund and staff gym facilities as part of a larger Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program".

The letter goes on to say "Since The Colosseum is not organized or funded as an MWR facility, we do not have the wider latitude to expand patronage beyond the following categories, active duty and reserve military and dependents and Department of Defense civilian employees."

Derr was so frustrated with the situation that he ripped up a commendation he received for his military services at the protest on Monday.

In an emailed statement on behalf of the fitness center, Daryl Mayer, Chief of Current Operations for the 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs stated:

"The fitness center, known locally as The Colosseum, is located at Rome Research Site and is operated via co-op of three organizations collectively known as the Colosseum Executive Stakeholders Group: Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) and Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS). The facility is funded entirely by appropriated funds. AFRL's contributions to the facility have not changed.

"As a result of a recent review of rules & regulations concerning the expenditure of appropriated funds and based on DoD regulations & guidance, the Stakeholders decided to limit the access to the facility to authorized users only. Authorized users include active duty military, reservists and their family members and DoD civilian employees.

"It is important to note that while this review was conducted in light of the constrained fiscal environment, it was not directly related to the impending sequestration."

Congressman Richard Hanna issued a statement on the situation Monday afternoon, stating, "I am hopeful the situation will be examined by the three local agencies involved in the management of the Colosseum Fitness Center. I understand the concerns of those impacted by this decision, and trust that if this is just a technicality it can be reversed so that the facility will once again be open to the patrons that have historically enjoyed access.”

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