The Town Council decided July 17 to postpone action on a request for $460,000 to construct new tennis courts by New Canaan High School. The courts are used by both the public and the high school teams during the season.
"I looked at the courts myself," Councilman John Emert said at the meeting. "I saw some cracks, but I didn't see any significant cracks. This is really not the time, I think, to be bonding $460,000."
Recreation Director Steve Benko said that while the courts look fine now, they are full of hairline cracks. During the winter, as the ground water freezes and melts and expands and contracts underneath the courts, those hairline cracks will turn into bigger cracks, he said.
Benko would like to replace the six courts, built in 1997, with post-tensioned concrete, the newest technology. Traditional asphalt courts would cost $280,000, Benko said.
The new way of building tennis courts includes cables which run in a grid beneath the concrete. This has the effect of keeping the courts as a single entity, which reduces cracks. The process is becoming more popular among municipalities because of the reduction in crack-fill maintenance needed, according to Benko.
Maintenance costs are, in part, Benko's problem. In the last four years, the Recreation Department has spent more than $34,000 to patch and fix the courts.
"I want to commend you on the patches you've made. They're very smooth," Councilman Roger Williams said, explaining that he'd prefer to continue regular maintenance rather than build completely new courts. "We could spend five to 10 thousand a year for the next few years on maintenance, and get a couple more years out of them."
Another idea was to raise money to supplement the public funding for new courts by having residents pay user fees. Annually, the paddle courts at Waveny produce around $50,000 and the tennis courts at Mead Park about $25,000, Benko said, but both are manned by an attendant checking reservations.
"If there's any way we could generate revenue for these, I'd support it," Councilman John Engel said. "If we could generate even $10,000 a year, I would feel much more comfortable putting in the best tennis courts on the market. If I could swipe a card and you could see, `John Engel swiped in at 9:03,' you could see how much time I used the court for."
That type of technology was approved recently for use at Spencer's Run dog park, where a small fee is charged. With the technology systems available, Benko said, the department could certainly raise revenue.
The Town Council asked Benko to return with more research about prices for courts and the viability of installing a fee system. Because work would need to be done before the ground freezes, work would need to start around Sept. 15 at the latest. The council decided to conduct a special meeting in August to revisit the issue.
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