By BLAKE FAITH
The Mt. Zion Village board approved a resolution with government agreement between the Village of Mt. Zion and Mt. Zion school district with the shared costs of the Mervis Courts at Fletcher Park.
The courts have been there since 2010 when Mr. Mervis approached both school board and village board to make these courts and raised funds to the amount of nearly $420,000 that was given as a donation to the village to make these courts.
In the Fall of 2022, the village informed the school district that the Village was looking to repair the courts and convert two (2) of the six (6) into pickleball courts while inquiring about tennis season dates for 2023. Village Administrator Julie Miller contacted IHSA and inquired if there was a requirement as to the number of courts needed to host home matches. There are no court requirements, only recommendations. The school district has 2 courts of their own available for matches and practices. The district’s courts also need repairs.
The original scope for the project included the complete removal and replacement of the four (4) tennis courts along Fletcher Park Blvd. and the conversion of the two (2) other courts into six (6) pickleball courts. The estimated cost of the project is $481,984.65.
The last proposal from the school district wanted the Village to keep all six (6) courts as tennis courts and they would be willing to pay an annual fee of $1,250.00. I understand the school district’s position, they represent the students (33 in 21-22) and families that play tennis along with future prospective players. The Village represents over 6,000 residents.
Mr. Mervis has again raised funds, approximately $50,000, for the project to assist the school district and the tennis program to cover a portion of the funds requested by the Village. ($117,000 of the estimated project cost of $451,744) The attached agreement requires the school district to reimburse the Village the difference of $67,000 over 20 years for the current project ($3,350 annually). In addition, both the Village and School District will deposit $5,000 annually into the Community Foundation for future maintenance of the tennis courts. If at any time in the next 20 years, the courts need repairs these funds will be utilized. If the cost is more than the balance of the fund, the Village will cover all overages. The agreement will ensure the courts are maintained properly and in a timely manner for the next 20 years.
All 6 courts would remain tennis courts and the Village will pursue a separate project for pickleball courts at Fletcher Park. The timeline is not known currently. Once the scope of the project is formalized the project will be included in the Village’s 5-Year Capital Improvement Plan. The current condition of the courts and their safety has become a real concern. Staff learned in the last two weeks that a student was hurt a couple years ago due to the cracking. The Village was never informed of any injuries. Leaving the courts open is placing the Village in a position of liability that could result in litigation. After the last tennis meet in the spring, there will be a lock placed on the courts due to the safety concerns.
The two options were as follows:
1: Village assumes all costs and converts two tennis courts into 6 pickleball courts as originally proposed and recommended by the Parks and Recreation Commission.
2: Lock the tennis courts due to recent safety concerns and continue to negotiate.
The agreement was approved and now will be for the School Board to discuss and approve. The Mt. Zion Village Board will meet again on May 15 at 5:15 p.m.