Gym Owner Claims Feds Killing his Business in the Name of Security

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PLAINS TOWNSHIP -- For 12 years, hundreds of people looking to get fit turned to Dave Sommers who runs a the Shape Up Fitness Center inside the Social Security Office`s Processing Center facility in Plains Township.

About half the gym's members work in this federal building in Luzerne County.

But last month, Sommers said a representative of the Social Security administration told him news about members who do not work in the building.

"Outside members would not be allowed in the gym anymore, and I would be forced to survive on just the federal employees," said Sommers, who added his business cannot survive if his gym membership is cut in half.

"I worked 60-70 hours a week for 12 years and it's done," he said.

Dave Sommers added the feds only told him it was done to make the building more secure, but that raises another question to him and gym members.

Why is the SSA still allowing people who don't work in the building to access two other businesses in the center: the Hildebrandt Learning Center, and a branch of the Cross Valley Federal Credit Union.

"My biggest reaction is that I was puzzled," said gym member Andy Miller of Laflin.

"It doesn`t make any sense to me," added Dr. Sandra Lane of Tunkhannock, a chiropractor who has worked with Sommers.

"Not that a daycare`s not important, or a bank`s not important," said Dr. Lane "But on the federal level, we want to have people fit and healthy."

A worker at the Social Security Press Office took the information about the Sommers,

The agency's press office took our information, but didn't call back with a reason for telling Sommers that only those who work in the building can work out at Shape Up.

Dave Sommers wants some answers soon before what he calls the feds' deadline to restrict his gym memberships to those who work in that federal building.

"We have the Michelle Obama initiative on fitness," Sommers said.  "What`s the first thing to go out of a federal building? A fitness center.  I don`t understand it."

Late Friday afternoon, Cross Valley Credit Union CEO Edward Kaushas told us he received a call from a Social Security Administration representative informing him the credit union, as well as Dave Sommers fitness center will no longer permit customers from outside the building for security reasons sometime this spring.

Meantime, Sommers is considering moving his business.  But he says it's hard to find a location central to his customers.

(Update Friday at 5:45)  The Social Security Administration Press Office released this statement confirming Cross Valley's Branch Office, like the Shape Up Fitness Center will no longer be allowed to serve customers who work in the building.

Here is the statement:

"For security reasons, only credentialed individuals should have access to Social Security’s Wilkes-Barre Data Operations Center (WBDOC) building, and the fitness center is inside the secure area.  The Cross Valley Federal Credit Union (CVFCU) has facilities near the WBDOC secure building that are open to the public.  Effective immediately, security staff will instruct individuals without proper credentials to visit the Cross Valley Federal Credit Union ¼ mile from the Wilkes-Barre Data Operations facilityThe Hildebrandt Day Care Center does allow the children of members of the general public to enroll and they are issued a separate credential that grants entrance to the day care facility. Upon entrance, the security staff verifies the credentials. The main entrance to the Hildebrandt Day Care Center is separate from the WBDOC section of the building."