By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – The Town’s deteriorating tennis courts, located at 100 Avenue and 101 Street, will be staying where they are after all now that Sturgeon School Division has put forth some more agreeable terms to help the Town restore the courts to a usable condition. Roots from the surrounding poplar trees have broken through the tennis court surface, creating tripping hazards and rendering the courts unusable. The division is looking to work with the town to restore the courts with existing budgeted monies.
Council voted in favour of moving forward with a restoration project at the existing location and entering into a long-term agreement with the school division to use the land.
The courts were approved for $120,000 worth of refurbishing in the 2013 budget; however, the Sturgeon School Division, who now owns the land the courts are on, had put forth a few conditions that would have extended the costs beyond what was allotted for the project this year.
At their Apr. 23 meeting, Council discussed ripping up the existing courts and replacing them with new ones at Bob Foster Park or another location in town. Council’s approval of $120,000 included monies to remove the poplar trees surrounding the tennis court, install a root barrier and treatment to prevent new growth eventually lifting the courts, and funding for rehabilitating the existing court area to re-create three usable tennis surfaces. The allotted budget did not include replacing the poplars, landscaping, picnic tables and benches, or developing a flexible-use court.
Though Sturgeon School Division was supportive of the Town continuing to operate the courts, they had requested the agreement include the development of two tennis courts and one flexible-use court as well as the replacement of trees this year.
The uncertainty of the situation prompted Council to ask Administration to come back with costs for building two shale tennis courts with fencing and some ideas about just where they could be located.
Meeting in the middle
Chief Administrative Officer Debbie Oyarzun said after meeting with the school board, the division expressed their wish to have a collaborative and positive relationship with Council and the community. “I’m in very close communication with the superintendent of the school division and she took it back to her board,” Oyarzun said. “They’re very supportive of Council’s budget restrictions.”
As such, they approved Council’s original refurbishment plans for the courts with the consideration Council would make the third court suitable for multi-purpose uses.
Under the proposal, the offending and problem-causing poplar trees would be cut this year, possibly to be replaced in 2014.
Additionally, the school division expressed its interest in establishing a long-term agreement with the Town for the facility to provide ongoing certainty for the tennis courts and their maintenance. “They said we would need to get together and paper that … but they were definitely in favour of a long-term agreement,” Oyarzun said, adding she anticipates the term of the agreement would be equal to the life expectancy of the courts, estimated to be 30 years once refurbished.
Oyarzun said the plan, including the division’s request for a multi-use court, could be contained within the budgeted $120,000, plus some additional Public Works resources to cover the basic costs of additional fencing and installation. Director of Public Works, Calude Valcourt, said the cost would range from $850 to $2,000, monies already in the 2013 Public Works budget for temporary fencing.
Council found the courts were not greener on the other side, at least with respect to the green of budget money. Estimated costs to build a three-court facility elsewhere came in at $405,000 plus another $50,000 to reclaim the Sturgeon School Division lands where the courts are currently. Costs to build a single court elsewhere were estimated at $135,000 plus the reclamation costs.
In advocating for moving forward, Mayor Paul Krauskopf said he trusted the school division to work with the town and felt the facility could accommodate both tennis and pickle ball, a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis.
The existing tennis courts have been a Town-owned facility existing on school division property since 1982. Refurbishing the courts is anticipated to give the existing courts another 40 years of life.