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Gaeta’s Club Adventure meets in a renovated room at the base’s community center. Earlier this year, the school-aged kids’ program moved from an off-base apartment to the on-base facility.

Gaeta’s Club Adventure meets in a renovated room at the base’s community center. Earlier this year, the school-aged kids’ program moved from an off-base apartment to the on-base facility. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

GAETA, Italy — It’s hard to tell that Naval Support Activity Gaeta’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation program is facing budget cuts in the coming fiscal year.

The floor of the gym, which is shared by the base and school, is in the midst of a $44,000 renovation. Once complete, the gym will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The base’s other two small gyms already are open 24/7.

MWR also is turning its youth activities office into a Boys and Girls Club, complete with new computers, televisions and video games. It also hired its first full-time fitness coordinator recently.

Gaeta will be able to continue the programs with minimal fee increases for services and equipment rentals. It will raise some prices at the snack bars and cut two of the more expensive programs.

Bob Froelicher, Gaeta’s MWR director, said MWR has been able to avoid larger cuts in service and price increases yet still meets the majority of current and future funding needs.

Naval Forces Europe headquarters provided money for the gym floor replacement. MWR cut costs by moving a school-age child facility from a rented apartment in town to facilities on base and minimized costs by having Public Works Department personnel renovate the child facility care rooms and build the Boys and Girls Club.

Cmdr. Joanne Fish, the base’s commander, addressed the cuts in a base newspaper article this month.

“… A great deal of effort has gone into doing two things: meet impending cuts and try to lessen the impact on our small community,” she wrote. “We have made a [conscious] decision to increase fees if it will save a program from being discontinued.”

“There’s not a whole lot out in the [Gaeta] community that we’re used to,” said Chief Petty Officer Wade Griffith, who runs USS La Salle’s incoming personnel program. “From the standpoint of families and children, it’s important that we have different type of activities.”

So far, the base is cutting only its annual fall festival and its outdoor program, though outdoor gear will still be available for rent. Prices for child care will increase for the first time in five years.

Fewer than 800 active-duty personnel are assigned to the Gaeta-homeported USS La Salle, 6th Fleet staff and base, which is about 60 miles northwest of Naples.

Base personnel and family members say that because of Gaeta’s isolated location, MWR programs can make or break a tour there.

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