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Tennis Courts Set for Repairs

After years of tension between the school district and the city over responsibility for the deteriorating tennis courts at the high school, the courts are finally set to be competitive again.

With a joint-use agreement approved by the City Council last month, school board members voted this past Tuesday, Oct. 8, to spend $69,000 to hire Irvine’s LPA, Inc., architectural and engineering firm, to firm up a $620,000 repair plan expected to be completed by next August.

The cracked and weathered courts next to the swimming pool, both of which are open to the community, were scheduled for major repairs this last summer, said Ted Doughty, the district’s director of facilities. Plans were delayed in part due to an impasse between the district and city over who’s responsible for what and at what cost, he said.

It seems sharing the courts and the pool is not always considered a 50-50 deal.  “When we look at the impact that citizens have during non-instructional hours, I think there’s some philosophical differences about who’s responsible for offsetting that,” Doughty said.  “Is that a school district 100-percent-responsibility or should the city contribute to that and, if so, what’s the percentage?  I think there’s naturally some tension between the two agencies about what our primary roles are.”

City officials questioned costs to upgrade the courts with expensive post-tension steel cables that prevent extensive cracking, which some parents argued for at school board meetings this year. Doughty said the district was ready to completely renovate the courts minus the cost-increasing cables.  “Quite frankly, we couldn’t afford it,” he added.

The public contended the district could afford it, relying on several contractors’ estimates.  “The difficulty was that those quotes didn’t reflect prevailing wage,” Doughty said.  “They didn’t reflect having to go through an architect and the state approval process. That was part of the disconnect. The public had an impression that we could slam something in for a third if not 50 percent less than it’s actually going to cost the district. Luckily, during all that process, the city decided to step forward with quite a bit more money.”

While finances were being repenciled, the district recoated and patched some cracks to keep the courts useable.

Over the last year, city officials set aside $310,000 to contribute to the courts, but the public’s call for the post-tension cables upped the ante with total costs now estimated at $620,000.

The school district and the city finally reached a love-love consensus last month when the City Council agreed to pay a greater percentage of repair costs. The city will pay 70 percent of the total cost to repair the tennis courts and, later, the swimming pool, a percentage based on the proportion of residents rather than students using the facilities.

In upgrading the tennis courts, the city will now pay $435,000 of the cost and the district will contribute $185,000. Part of the city’s portion comes from accelerated payments outlined in the agreement requiring the city to contribute $25,000 over five years to improve district facilities used by residents.

The city also agreed to contribute an estimated $20,000 a year to the district to maintain gyms and playing fields.  The city will cover this cost by increasing recreational fees to residents using the gyms and fields by five percent over two years, said Ben Seigel, the city’s deputy director of community services.

The new surfaces will include installing the post-tension steel cables under cement slabs on five of the six courts beginning next June.  Completion is set for August.  A sixth court is already fitted with post-tension cables.

The city attempted to include the Artists’ Theater at the high school as a shared facility in the joint-use agreement to affirm its say over scheduling programs there, but the district refused.  “We’re satisfied with the way the current scheduling is, subject to a 2008 community access agreement,” said Seigel. “We wanted to formalize it as part of this joint-use agreement.  We were never sharing costs.”  In 1992, the city contributed $300,000 for refurbishment of the theater. 

Under the previous 1992 joint-use agreement, the district assumed costs to maintain the gym and fields while the city contributed 70 percent of the costs for the pool and tennis courts. The city also paid for the pool manager and lifeguards while the district maintained the pool and the building there.

The pool agreement will likely be amended by next May to address renovation, said Seigel; the city has already budgeted $200,000 toward the project.

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