Facing a $1.7 million budget deficit, Salt Lake Area Regional Service Area trustees hope to tie down a bank loan of up to $2.5 million Tuesday night.

The new board, which has been struggling to steady the district's shaky financial position since taking office in January, will hold a special meeting with bank officials and financial advisers at 6 p.m. in the tennis court offices.Trustees need to scrape up more than a million dollars just to finish construction of the $11 million Oquirrh Park Fitness Center expansion, 5624 S. 4800 West, which is scheduled to open in less than two months.

In addition, the district needs another million dollars to cover the center's operations and maintenance expenses until December, when the county distributes annual property-tax collections.

Without the loan, the district will run out of money some time in May and won't have the funds to finish off or operate the expanded fitness center.

A 24-member citizens advisory committee organized in January is developing a number of fund-raising projects, but won't be able to produce enough revenue fast enough to help the district meet its immediate financial obligations.

Once the loan is in hand, said acting executive director Jan Furner, the district's finances will be stabilized and the fitness center addition will be on schedule for a grand opening on or about June 8.

Furner, the executive director of the Utah Association of Special Districts, has administered the service district since the new board placed former executive director David Howick on administrative leave Jan. 5.

Howick, who was fired about a month later after an independent investigation by Salt Lake attorney Mary Anne Wood, has since filed an administrative claim against the district seeking an undisclosed amount of compensation.

The former director is believed to be asking the board to pay out a three-year "consulting contract" approved by a previous board of trustees that would pay him approximately $250,000.

Meantime, Furner said, the district's financial and records systems have undergone a major overhaul and a new auditing firm has been hired to help the district sort out its fiscal affairs.

"I think we're in pretty good shape now," he said. "We certainly don't have all the pieces together, but the reorganization is moving ahead."

A national search for a new executive director has ended and a four-member committee is now screening about 125 applications to identify the 20 top prospects.

That short list will be trimmed later this month to five or six top candidates, who will be brought in for interviews by the board.

Several applicants reside outside Utah, said Furner, who admits he's a bit surprised by the amount of national interest in the post.

Trustees want the new director hired and on board by mid- or late May to help plan and carry out the June grand opening, he added.

Furner said trustees have tried to trim costs of the new $11 million expansion where possible, but noted that has been difficult because the center is more than 90 percent complete.

"They've made about $60,000 in cuts so far," he said. "That might not seem like much, but it represents many hours of hard work by the board."

Increases in annual membership fees were approved at a March 31 board meeting, with the family membership increasing from $105 a year to $135.

However, the district is selling memberships at the old rate of $105 annually through May 8.

Other annual rates include $120 for a couple, $90 for a single person, $65 for a senior couple (patrons 60 years and older) and $40 for a single senior citizen.

One-month trial memberships are being offered at $40 per family or $30 per single. In addition, non-resident memberships will be sold at $330 annually per family and $275 a year per single.