Tennis courts to be built

The $450,000 bonded reconstruction of the eight tennis courts at Wilton High School is finally being performed, and under budget.

The bonding was approved by voters in the spring. Parks Recreation Director Steve Pierce told the Board of Selectmen Aug. 21 the bids for the project came in well under the mark. He vetted both companies that responded to a request for proposal and recommended signing a contract with Hinding Tennis for $423,500.

Additionally, Facilities Director Christopher Burney wants $5,000 to spend for an independent engineer, to make sure the courts will be the long-lasting concrete type that will last 20 years, as specified in the request for proposal.

The selectmen voted to allow First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice and Town Counsel Ira Bloom to negotiate a contract with Hinding Tennis. The vote was 4-1, with Selectman Mike Kaelin the lone dissenter.

Kaelin said there are other priorities at this time, considering the uncertainty of the town’s financial footing under the current state budget problem.

In this current economic climate where we are facing facts and have a hiring freeze,” Kaelin said, “I don’t see how we can do this now, so I vote against it. It’s not a big amount but we don’t have a lot of options at this point.”

Vanderslice saw it differently. “I do think it’s one of our prime amenities, and a basic expectation when people look to buy property in town,” she said of the tennis courts.

Of the various bonding projects, the tennis courts received the most comments from town residents at public hearings in the spring. While some said the courts are not absolutely necessary, the majority of commenters — such as Olmstead Hill Road resident Larry Tucker, who spoke on behalf of the Tennis Boosters — were in favor of it.

Pierce said the courts will be switched from blacktop, which cracks during the changing seasons, to post-tension concrete, which is reinforced concrete that has a 20-year warranty against cracks.

They will be built and running by the end of October, Pierce said.

The footprint remains the same. The fencing, netting and lighting will be reused.

“Every seven years it should be repainted,” Pierce said. “We just leaf-blow it off and make sure it’s ready for play. We don’t have to buy anything new.”

The bond is authorized but not issued yet. A bond is a town’s way of borrowing money. It repays the amount borrowed over a period of time with interest.