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City in pickle over new pickleball lines



Attorney urges council to remove lines before local tennis courts get bad reputation

By Matt Ward – Sun Advocate Editor

Price City leaders found themselves in a bit of a pickle after a local attorney addressed the city council last week.
Attorney Joane Pappas White told council members the city made a serious mistake when it installed pickleball lines on three local tennis courts several weeks ago.
White went before the council during last Wednesday’s meeting and urged them to take immediate action to remove the new lines, which she said threatened the integrity of local high school competition as well as the courts’ sanctioning under the U.S. Tennis Association. She was there representing the Community Tennis Committee, a group of officials and residents who planned and helped finance the city’s tennis courts beginning in 2011.
“In the process of coming before you tonight, I want to start by clearing the air here. No one has ever been against pickleball, although a few of us had to look it up,” White said. “There seems to be some kind of miscommunication through part of this that this was going to somehow remove the young people from the junior high and public from using the courts for pickleball. That was never the issue, the issue is not the people, it’s not the game, it’s the lines and what they did to an extremely important asset of this community.”
White suggested the new pickleball lines—only about a month old—affect tennis games by distracting players.  
Pickleball is played on a smaller court and uses a lower net. The balls are generally plastic with holes in them. Rackets differ between the games as well. Pickleball rackets are plastic or composite and look more like oversized ping pong paddles. The game can be played in singles or doubles play like tennis, but the service game differs in that servers in pickleball serve underhanded.
White said the Community Tennis Committee would rather see pickleball enthusiasts use temporary tape lines, because now if the city wishes to remove the lines, it could be a costly repair for taxpayers.
The attorney suggested if the city used the original builders of the tennis courts, removing the lines and refinishing the surfaces would cost about $21,000 for the three courts where pickleball lines were installed.
It cost only about $2,000 to install the pickleball lines, Mayor Mike Kourianos said.
All six of the city’s tennis courts originally cost $610,000 to install. The price included installing state-of-the-art tension-wired concrete to prevent surface cracking.
The tennis courts, though owned by the city, were erected through a partnership between city and school board.
White illustrated the urgency of removing the pickleball lines and refinishing the courts before winter arrives.
“This is the problem. We have a real small window left here of warm enough weather. Once we start getting freezing nighttime temperatures, they can’t install the paint and the finish and they certainly won’t guarantee it if it starts freezing,” she said. “We have about the month of October to solve this problem.”
But with a potential price tag of $21,000, White’s sense of urgency may be for not, since any unbudgeted expenditure by the city must go through a sealed bid process, which takes time.
Even if, as White suggested, the company slash its price in half and just remove the in-bound pickleball lines, instead of all of them, the project would still require a bid process.
“Mayor, this is our court, we own it and we have to go through our purchasing policy. Since that’s over $8,000, it requires sealed bids. We have to put the project out for bid,” the city’s finance director, Lisa Richens, reminded the council.
Kourianos suggested that because lawyers such as White are now involved—she urged the council to pass a motion as early as its Oct. 10 meeting to fix the tennis courts—the process may end up being delayed longer than October. The mayor said he would like to return to an earlier effort, a committee of school district and city officials, to come up with options to solve the pickleball impasse.
“When we met at the school superintendent’s office, there was a committee formed to come up with solutions. When attorneys get involved, it ties everybody’s hands. So then it makes it tough,” the mayor said. “Can we just put that committee back together and come up with solutions?”
White said she was concerned that too long a delay could impact the high school varsity and junior varsity teams from being ready to play in March. She also suggested that if the courts aren’t fixed by spring, teams from other communities could refuse to attend tournaments in Price.
“I have concerns, committees can take a long time. There are some other issues. I’m trying to cut through it,” White said.
City Councilman Rick Davis said he would have to get a lot more information before he was prepared to make a decision.
“I have never made a decision based on opinion. I need to get the facts, I need to get a lot of information and then come forward and render a (decision). That would be my recommendation, to table this item for two weeks,” he said.
The council agreed to review the topic again at its Oct. 10 meeting.

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