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E’town lobs tennis court contract to local builder

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At least eight courts to be built at Freeman Lake Park

By Marty Finley

Barring delays, area tennis players should have new courts on which to test their skills by August.

Elizabethtown City Council on Wednesday approved a contract with Jenkins-Essex Construction not to exceed $1.3 million to design and construct a tennis court complex on property at Freeman Lake Park.

Jenkins-Essex was chosen after the city received and evaluated design and build proposals from five companies. All five were interviewed by a city-appointed committee but Planning Director Ed Poppe said the committee felt Jenkins-Essex could best perform under the schedule preferred by the city. The committee also wanted to choose the company it felt could do the best job in designing and constructing the facility, he said.

It is the first time the city has combined design and construction on a project, which is why it took an extended period of time to receive and choose a proposal, Poppe said. Poppe believes the design phase should be completed by February and the courts are scheduled be finished by August. Poppe also believes construction work may be undertaken before the design phase is finished, which is what made combining the phases into one package appealing, he said.

Mayor Tim Walker last week said the city wants a minimum of eight courts, a parking area and a pavilion with rest room facilities to be part of the plan. But Walker and Poppe said the city may be able to add additional courts once the design is finished. If there is enough cost savings, Walker added, the city may get 10 courts, which would allow it to host tennis tournaments at the new facility.

Bo O’Brien, chairman of the Elizabethtown Tennis Commission, said he believes there will be enough money available to build more than eight courts. The commission, he said, wants 10.

“I think we’ll get everything we want,” he said.

O’Brien was appointed to the city’s tennis committee and brought the issue to the city’s attention, pointing out that courts at American Legion Park and University Drive are showing wear and have fallen below tennis regulation standards.
Poppe congratulated O’Brien after the meeting.

“Now the real work starts, man,” Poppe told O’Brien.

O’Brien said it has taken about six and a half years to reach this point but he knows the payoff is right around the corner.

“It will be fun to be out there playing,” he said.

He also commended the city for undertaking the project when it already has the Elizabethtown Sports Park to contend with.

“I don’t think most cities would do something like this,” he said.

The city has allocated about $700,000 for the courts in its current budget, which will be enough to get the project started, Walker said. The city can allocate additional money to finish paying for the work in next year’s budget, he added.

The city also plans to approach the United States Tennis Association about a grant, which could offset some of the cost, Walker said.

In other business

  • The city authorized the purchase of nine properties in the Haycraft neighborhood at a cost of roughly $77,000. Planning Director Ed Poppe said the purchases will be acquired through a Community Development Block Grant, part of the city’s ongoing revitalization efforts in the neighborhood.
  • The council also authorized the purchase of property at 1219 Johnstown Road for $106,000, which will be acquired through a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant. Robert Bush, director of stormwater management, said the grant is about $147,000 with a 13 percent city match that gives the city additional money to demolish a structure on the property. The structure is being removed, Bush said, because it is located in an at-risk, flood-prone area. Bush said the city will have to maintain the property as open space and ensure nothing else is built there.
  • The council authorized dedication of a portion of Freeman Lake Road between Magnet Business Park and Lakeshore Plaza as public right of way.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.