It will be up to the voters in the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District to decide whether to allocate funds this year to repair the middle/high school tennis courts, after members of the school board were split on whether to move forward with repairs or remove the courts altogether.
During their Dec. 20 meeting, school board members discussed the issue of a warrant article for tennis court repairs and debated whether the district should put forth an article at all or to have the courts taken out.
Voters approved $20,000 in the budget in 2022 for the removal of the tennis courts, but after further discussion, the district solicited bids for a complete repair. The costs for repair came in significantly higher than the amount budgeted for the court removal – about $71,000 for crack repair, site work and fence repairs. The surface repair alone is about $42,000, more than double what was budgeted.
Some board members remained in favor of still removing the courts, while others were in favor of leaving the matter to voters in a warrant article.
School Board member Darlene Anzalone moved to create a warrant article for the full repair cost of the tennis courts, seconded by Brianne Lavallee.
The vote passed 5-3, with Charlie Post, Dennis Golding and Jonathan Vanderhoof voting against, and Chair Jim Kofalt abstaining, as he traditionally does except in cases of a tie.
Post said he voted against putting the matter in a warrant article, saying the board and the public had already voted on the matter by including costs for removal in the 2022 budget.
“We had a robust discussion about the tennis courts, and the fact that they were no longer viable,” Post said in an interview. “It was going to be very expensive to replace them, and at the time, we had three students who were playing tennis – and playing very well, but still only three students who were doing it. It didn’t seem an appropriate expense.”
The original plan, Post said, was to turn the area of the tennis courts into a practice field, and find an alternative place for the tennis team to practice, off-campus.
The courts were originally anticipated to be removed in the summer or early fall, but the board took up discussion again on whether to remove them, or keep them going with repairs, which is when the district solicited bids for the cost of repairs.
The bids include costs to remove the heave concrete, reset the posts, dig out and clean about 825 feet of cracks and fill them with court patch and binder.
During the board meeting, Lavallee said some community members had expressed concerns about removing the courts since that decision had been made. She said the board should send the decision back to the community, and ask them what they want.
Board member Alex LoVerme – who voted for the warrant article along with Anzalone, Lavallee, Tiffany Cloutier-Cabral and Matt Mannarino – said during the meeting that removing the court could set a poor precedent, and that it could become too easy to remove other sports fields, rather than to spend the funds to properly maintain them. He said it was on the district to maintain those assets through the years, and not penalize the community or students for the district’s failure to do so.
LoVerme said the district should properly fix cracks as they appear, and maintain the court properly going forward.
Voters in both Wilton and Lyndeborough vote on district warrant articles in person during the district meeting in March.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or email@example.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.