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Facility plan is punctured

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by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

With a 5-0 vote, the Sequim school board punctured the plans of the Peninsula Tennis Club to put a domed tennis facility on the Sequim High campus.

 

In addition to the “bubble,” the plan called for resurfacing the existing five courts and building a new one. The club promised to bring $200,000 to the project.

 

Proponents of the plan say they never received a full hearing, with several issues raised just before the vote to reject was cast during the board’s regular meeting, Tuesday, April 11.

 

“We haven’t had a dialogue,” said Tennis Club President Allison Hastings.

 

“That’s unfortunate.”

 

Hastings made a last-minute pitch to answer the concerns posed by Superintendent Bill Bentley, who serves on the district’s facilities committee, which for the second time recommended the board reject the proposal.

 

Bentley said the facilities committee had gathered the additional information requested by the board members but found the plan remained too problematic.

 

Bentley said many of the original concerns remained, including the size of the proposed bubble. Though the tennis club had proposed removing one section of the facility, it would still “utilize a fair portion of space” on the campus, where space is at a premium, he said. He told board members that even in its smaller configuration the bubble would encroach on the school’s baseball field.

 

Bentley also questioned the ability of the tennis club to meet the financial demands of the facility operations. He said the estimated cost of lighting the facility — $25,000 — might be too low. If it required heating, the utility cost would jump to $60,000 annually.

 

The bubble, which when inflated is 40 feet high, exceeds city code, Bentley said. While the city council might be able to waive the rule, “there’s no guarantee.”

In the affirmative

Stephen Rosales, a local youth volunteer, said Bentley’s concerns included “a lot of what-ifs.”

 

“The board should at least get the ball rolling,” he said. “If we can’t find the answers … so be it.”

 

Don Thomas, a tennis coach for the Boys & Girls Clubs, told the board “a lot of our kids get in their cars to go to Bremerton to play indoor tennis.” With the new bubble, many players in other towns would make the same trek to Sequim.

 

“This could become a tennis center,” he said. “It could be used by people from all over the peninsula.”

“You can’t put $5,000 into the courts now,” Thomas told the board. “They’re terrible.”

 

Several of the board members expressed their own concerns with the plan. Vice President Virginia O’Neil, said, “My first concern is financial. This tennis group — although a great group — will have to run this. Do they have bylaws? Who’s in charge?

 

“We’re poised to start making some serious decisions about our facilities,” O’Neil said. “This makes it more difficult.”

 

Board member Sarah Bedinger said, “We’re looking at a half million dollar (budgetary) shortfall. We have bigger issues.”

 

Following the decision, Hastings expressed her frustration with the process. “The facilities committee didn’t get back to us with all these questions. These were out of the blue,” she said.

 

Hastings said the bubble, which was donated after a stint on the campus of George Washington University, is currently owned by the Clallam County Family YMCA. “We have until Friday to decide if we will take possession of it,” Hastings said.

 

Hastings said, “If we don’t, they will sell it.”

 

 

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