Gnardog unleashes training for Parlier seniors

Reedley fitness company takes over program after Sierra Kings Health Care District pulls the plug on Parlier’s contract

Gnardog CrossFit is located in downtown Reedley and is open daily for classes and open gym time, March 4, 2024. The locally-owned business offered to facilitate an exercise program in Parlier for the Sierra Kings Healthcare District. (Serena Bettis)
Darren Fraser
Published March 5, 2024  • 
2:00 pm

PARLIER – Thanks to fast thinking on part of the Sierra Kings Health Care District (SKHCD) and the cooperation of Reedley-based Gnardog CrossFit, seniors in Parlier will continue to have the opportunity to exercise and get fit as part of the city’s Enhance Wellness Training program.

On Dec. 15, 2023, SKHCD CEO Chinayera Black Hardaman sent Parlier City Manager Sonia Hall a letter stating that due to programmatic and contractual noncompliance, SKHCD was pulling the plug on the program and terminating the city’s contract.

Last year, SKHCD issued Parlier a grant in the amount of $24,700 to fund the program from July 1, 2023 through Dec. 20, 2023.

At the Feb. 27 SKHCD Board meeting, Merari Gutierrez, SKHCD finance and program director, informed the Board that due to a “lack of communication and lack of providing reliable fiscal information” from Parlier, the district could no longer support the contract.

Black-Hardaman said that after the wellness program had been up and running for six months, Parlier failed to report program deliverables or provide reliable fiscal reporting. She said her decision to terminate the program, effective Jan. 15, 2024, occurred after she followed standard procedures for resolving noncompliance issues.

“I usually give 30 to 45 days. When that doesn’t work, I send a letter to freeze the contract if it looks like it’s not working,” she said. 

In her letter to Hall, Black-Hardaman said SKHCD had yet to receive any fiscal or programmatic activity from Parlier for the first quarter of fiscal year 2023. The city had failed to respond to repeated emails and voicemails from Gutierrez.

“The city manager was non-responsive to staff communication during the first four to five months, with the exception of a single email,” Black-Hardaman said. “They were out of compliance with the first quarter site-visit, program reporting, fiscal reporting and the provision of audit and insurance documents. I reached out to Mayor (Alma) Beltran, who was responsive and apologetic. However, the deficiencies continued.”

Black-Hardaman said the program remained popular at the city’s community center. At any given session, 20 to 30 seniors would show up for training.

“The seniors are there in Parlier. They go, there is a supportive spirit. The challenge was implementation. I thought, ‘Is there a way to salvage this?’,” she said.

ENTER GNARDOG

A few years back, SKHCD partnered with local fitness centers to develop a video to promote physical fitness for seniors. One of the centers was Gnardog in Reedley.

“We had a relationship with Matt (Tuttle),” Black-Hardaman said. As Reedley residents are aware, Tuttle is on the Reedley City Council. He also owns Gnardog CrossFit.

Black-Hardaman said there was no time to put out the project to bid. The District needed a company to provide a stopgap and take over the management and operation of the wellness program.

“I chose to talk to Gnardog because they offer cross fit. The others offer more traditional gym sets. We needed someone to come in and make this happen,” she said.

During a Zoom call that included city officials, Merari, Tuttle and Black-Hardaman, the parties reached an understanding: Gnardog would assume the management of the program. At that point, Parlier had spent $5,454 of the $27,000 grant. Tuttle said Gnardog could continue to run the program through June 30 – the end of the fiscal year – for $12,000.

Tuttle said Gnardog would not try to reinvent the wheel.

“They’ve (Parlier) got something that works,” he said. “Let’s maximize that. Work with city staff.” He said his plan is to integrate Gnardog’s training regimen into the existing program.

“I told Alma (Beltran) I wasn’t going to change up the program,” said Tuttle.

Black-Hardaman said SKHCD is a grant maker, not a grant terminator. 

“It is our intention to make every effort towards grant success,” she said. Of the 50 grants the district has issued since 2020, only two have been terminated.

“There are unique situations in which a grant may struggle or fail,” she said. “For example, the loss of key staff, changes in regulations, etc. In these situations, open communication with district staff is imperative to regroup towards success.  However, lack of communication and deficiencies in program/fiscal reporting suggest compromises to grant integrity and can lead to termination.”

The Times reached out to Sonia Hall regarding the contract termination but did not receive a response.

Darren Fraser
Reporter