Turning up the heat on the Waterloo School Board, multiple residents spoke Monday night about the highly contentious topic of the recent closure of the former high school tennis courts.
The public participation occurred shortly after the school district announced the tennis courts located at the corner of Rogers and Hamacher streets will be closed until the board decides whether to make necessary renovations.
Cracks in the surface, as well as changes in elevation at the cracks, have led to safety concerns, and at least one person allegedly suffered an injury fall on one of the courts. Waterloo school superintendent Brian Charron said the extent of the damage would require repairs beyond sealing the cracks.
Each of the speakers agreed the tennis courts should stay open for the community’s benefit. Jill Crouch, daughter of WHS coaching legend Larry Henson, told the board that these kinds of closures, including that of the Sondag city pool, have led to there being fewer available community activities.
“While I recognize this is a separate entity (from the school district), the effects of the decisions are the same,” she said.
In proposing different ideas to the board, Missy Hearren suggested an alternative court surface that has pores to soak up rain. Charron said no matter what surface is chosen that the district would still need to dig up the surface and pour a new foundation.
Hearren added she would like to see the city step in to help with these courts.
“But it should be a compromise because it’s not the city’s fault that (the courts) got to this point,” Hearren expressed.
Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith confirmed he recently met with the school district on the matter. Asked if the Waterloo City Council planned to discuss funding the tennis courts, he replied, “I’m waiting to see what the school district does.”
Smith also said the city doesn’t have funds to help the school district, and that “(the city) doesn’t own any parks.”
“(The school district) has the one percent sales tax. Where’s that going?” Smith questioned.
During last year’s primary election, the school district asked the community to support a one percent sales tax increase for facility projects. The tennis courts were listed in informational pamphlets as one of multiple possible projects under that funding option.
Asked why the district is no longer wanting to use this revenue for the courts, Charron said initial estimates for repairs came out to $120,000 and the board felt confident with moving forward at that time. He elaborated that newer estimates ranging between $300,000 and $500,000 have led the board to pause and reflect on the investment.
“People are either on the line or completely to one side (of the issue). I am one of those people that want the courts to stay, somehow, but it would be hard to justify (for the school district),” Charron said.
Waterloo School Board president Johnny Caupert told the public that the board would be ready to make a decision on the courts in the next two to three months. In the meantime, Charron said the current WHS courts will not be available for public use.
“Can student-athletes use the high school courts over the summer if there’s someone there supervising them?” Hearren asked.
Gardner Elementary principal Dawn Ivers explained that her husband, WHS tennis coach Brett Ivers, offers that opportunity. In Columbia, public tennis courts are available at both Bolm-Schuhkraft Park and Metter Park.
Charron also informed the board the district has received one mandated categorical payment — which covers transportation and special education — of $380,000 from the state. He said the district does not expect to receive any more of these payments before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.