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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — By the time school starts next fall, Colfax students — and the community — will have new tennis and pickleball courts.
The Colfax Board of Education at the April 22 meeting approved on a vote of four “yes” and two “no” to contract with the Monarch Paving Company for $86,000 to install new tennis-pickleball-basketball courts for the 2019-2020 school year.
The motion also included borrowing the money for 10 years at an interest rate of 3.8 percent with annual payments of $12,200.
The existing tennis courts were installed in the early 1990s and are in rough shape. They were patched four or five years ago, said William C. Yingst Jr., district administrator.
The tennis courts have suffered winter damage, and the large cracks that have opened up are a liability, he said.
Every day, the middle school students go out to the tennis courts for lunch. Basketball hoops were installed four or five years ago, Yingst said.
One option would be to install four full tennis courts with basketball hoops, he said.
The tennis courts are used by the community, although years ago, tennis was taught in physical education, Yingst said, noting that Colfax High School has never had a tennis team.
Sometimes physical education has included tennis, but it’s hard to teach if the teacher does not play tennis, and not all physical education teachers play tennis, he said.
Another option would be to install tennis courts with pickleball court “overlays,” he said.
The cracks in the tennis courts are so bad now that you cannot safely play tennis, said Ken Neuburg, school board member.
Because of the liability, “if we do nothing, we will have to close off the courts,” Yingst said.
The cost to replace the existing tennis courts with a multi-use courts is $86,000 according to a proposal from the Monarch Paving Company, he said.
After the new courts are installed, they will have to sit for 30 to 45 days before they are finished, Yingst said.
For anyone who is wondering, pickleball combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. Players use a paddle and a perforated ball similar to a Wiffle ball. The net is low and on the ground, and the pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court.
“Everyone here could go out and play pickleball right now,” Neuburg said.
The physical education department has ordered pickleball nets that can be used in the gym, noted John Dachel, Colfax High School principal.
Neuburg said he liked the flexibility of the combined tennis and pickleball courts with basketball hoops.
The goal of education is to build the mind and to build the body. Pickleball is something that can be a lifelong sport, Neuburg said.
Several school board members wondered if the project should be delayed until the summer of 2020.
In four years, the school district will have paid off the land purchase and the district’s unfunded pension liability, Yingst said.
The two payments amount to $70,000 per year, he said.
A 10-year loan payment of $12,200 is “not a large dent in the cash flow,” and when the land and the pension liability are paid off, the school district can pay off the remainder of the loan for tennis-pickleball courts, Yingst said.
Todd Kragness, school board president, said he liked the fact that the project is less than $100,000.
“The price is good. If we do it and do it now, it will only get more expensive every year if we wait,” he said.
Taking out a loan for 10 years and then paying it off in four years when the other loan payments are finished is a viable plan, Kragness said.
Christie Hill, school board member, said the school district should get at least one more bid to be sure the district is receiving a competitive price.
Obtaining more bids would mean going at least another month before the school board could take action on the bids, and if the project is delayed to get more bids, the tennis-pickleball courts will not be finished this year, Yingst said.
Kragness said he would not have been surprised if the price had come in at $150,000.
The bid is good until May 8, so the school board would need to hold a special meeting, said Kyle Knutson, school board member.
The tennis courts are a liability, and if they are closed off, it is not only the community that will not have access, but the area also is used for a school recess area, he said.
The school could not put students out there next year because the tennis courts have cracks that are four or five inches wide, Dachel said.
If the school district obtained another bid, maybe the school board meeting could be done by conference call, Hill said.
Yingst said he could try getting another bid, and if it was less than the Monarch bid, the school board could authorize him to move forward on the project.
On the other hand, because of the time of the year, paving companies have likely already filled their schedules, and the school district would be unlikely to find a company that could do the work this year, he said.
Kiekhafer and Hill voted “no” on the motion to approve contracting with Monarch Paving for $86,000 to install new tennis-pickleball courts with basketball hoops.
Voting “yes” on the motion were Neuburg, Bjork, Knutson, and De Moe. Kragness abstained from voting.
In other business, the Colfax Board of Education:
• Elected Todd Kragness as president; Ken Neuburg as vice-president; Christie Hill as clerk; and Kyle Knutson as treasurer.
• Confirmed the Colfax Messenger as the school district’s official newspaper.
• Scheduled school board meetings for the third Monday of the month, except in April and October when the board meetings are the fourth Monday of the month.
• Approved WIPFLI LLP as the school district’s auditor.
• Approved the law firm of Weld-Riley as the school district’s attorneys.
• Selected Hill as the CESA 11 delegate, and Neuburg as the representative for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
• Learned that the lottery credit paid through Dunn County amounted to $63,105.44, and the lottery credit paid through Chippewa County amounted to $13,166.02.
• Approved a retirement request from Jon Suckow, who has been a regular bus driver for the school district for 11 years.
• Approved a retirement request from James Woodford, who has been the band director for 33 years.
• Reviewed for a first reading policies on weapons on school grounds pertaining to professional staff and to students. The policy changes are recommended by Neola, formerly known as North East Ohio Learning Associates, an educational consulting firm.
• Accepted the resignation of Connie Gibson as play director. According to Gibson’s letter dated April 5, “As a core teacher, I feel it is time for me to step away from some extracurricular activities in order to better focus on the English curriculum … Gene and I are also finding that directing/advising the play interferes with our family time. We would like to be able to attend our son Drew’s basketball games next year, both home and away, and we found that to be impossible this year due to rehearsals.”
• Approved hiring Derek Westholm, Colfax Elementary music teacher, as the play director. According to Westholm’s letter dated April 18, “Given my extended involvement with the musical productions here in the School District of Colfax the past two years, I believe I am suitably qualified for this position. It is very important to me that the tradition of excellence of the school drama productions here in Colfax is continued and built upon moving forward.”
• Learned that there is about $12,000 in uncollected school lunch money from this year.