Murrells Inlet, SC - MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) - A local gym remains closed leaving many members without answers.
On Thursday, WMBF reported that American Fitness in Murrells Inlet was temporarily shut down because of mold, but some members believe there's more to the story and that this closing may be permanent.
This isn't the first American Fitness location that's been in trouble. We uncovered public records that show the owner, Timothy Conner, has been to court for issues involving other American Fitness locations along the Grand Strand.
Signs in the windows warn visitors of airborne mold at the Murrells Inlet location, claiming the facility needs to remain vacant while the issue is resolved.
However, use of the American Fitness facility doesn't appear to have stopped. Gym members are not allowed inside, but WMBF reporters saw dozens of parents and children walking in and out of the building without protection.
"If it was such a bad problem that it had to immediately shut down, and it was such a threat to everybody right now as you saw there's children in there working out does he not care about the children or is all of this a lie," Former employee Rick Sume said. " It can only be one or the other."
Sume said he was employed at American Fitness up until last year. He and others question whether the mold discovery is the real reason behind the closure.
"I told the owner Tim that there was mold in there and that was 16, 17 months ago," Sume said. "I had left and I assumed it, of course, was taken care of. You wouldn't just let something like that keep going. And I just found out they closed because of mold and they're saying it was all just this recent. And it's not the truth at all."
On September 20, the general manager of American Fitness posted photos on Facebook. It says in her posts that the images show water damage from a leaking roof and mold on ceiling tiles.
WMBF tried reaching out to Sheila Spinks, the general manager, but could only get her voicemail, which details the mold issues.
"It is with our sincere apologies and deepest sympathies that we must close American Fitness and Wellness Center due to the presence of mold," Spinks said in her voicemail.
Spinks continues by saying there's no timeline for when the issue will be resolved, claiming it could take weeks to reopen.
However, at least one member of the gym says she believes the owner's plan is to never reopen the business.
"Once they closed the way they did...who would lose all of their members...all of their members have gone and found other gyms and signed on to new memberships," Tracey Longo said. " No business would lose all their members and then try to reopen. You would do everything possible to hold onto your customer, so I don't think they'll reopen."
Some members say they left the gym because of the way the closing was handled. The gym reportedly took monthly dues for September out of members' bank accounts, despite them not being able to use the facility.
According to the general manager's voicemail, no further drafts will occur, but members also haven't heard if they will be repaid.
"The owner sent an email saying for us to re-mediate it ourselves with our banks and our credit cards, so I don't know...that remains to be seen I guess," Longo said.
WMBF reached out to the general manager multiple times Wednesday to comment on what former employees and members are saying, but have yet to hear back. The owner told WMBF he would respond to our questions tomorrow.
We did hear from a representative with the corporation that owns the building. They say the roof was repaired, and they are waiting on test results to come back, possibly as early as Thursday.
On Thursday, American Fitness sent the following e-mail to its members:
We have an update for you. Spann Roofing has begun the process of repairing the roof.
According to Jimbo Spann this could take 3 days providing we don't have any rain.
All of the reports from Hayes
Microbial Consulting and Envirocom Solutions have been turned over to the Landlord.
The next step will be to start the Remediaton.
Unfortunately, at this time we have not been contacted in regards to a start time/date for this process.
We will notify you as details are provided to us.
Click the link for a related story:
American Fitness in Murrells Inlet closing temporarily for mold remediation