By JIMMY ESPY
The Chattooga High tennis team will continue to practice and play on city-owned courts, at least for the time being.
The Board of Education voted down a plan on Thursday to begin clearing off a site on the high school campus. School officials had hoped to build six tennis courts, using funds set aside by the previous school board for capital projects to pay the estimated $350,000 total cost of the project.
However, council members John Agnew, Dr. Julia Houston and Sammy Ballard voted to not begin site preparation.
Houston said the system should focus its spending on academics first. She cited the lack of funds available to pay for a new reading program she supported but which was voted down two months ago.
“I’d like to see us focus more on academic needs at this point,” Houston said.
School Superintendent Jared Hosmer told the board that the money for the tennis courts would come from $1.6 million in funds set aide by a previous board for capital projects.
Board member Brad Hayes made the case for beginning the project. He called it a “safety and security issue.”
“Our tennis athletes deserve a nice tennis facility,” Hayes said. “I’d like to see them on a site near our school.”
The tennis teams have played for years on city-owned courts operated by the Summerville Recreation Center. Court quality in recent years has been a problem, leading some school officials to push for courts owned and maintained by the school system.
Board Chairman Agnew said he did not believe there was a serious health and security issue.
Houston also stressed her concerns about the looming budget shortfall the system faces.
“Balancing out budget is our first concern,” she said.
The school system has approximately $6 million in the bank, but that money cannot be used to fund the budget. It can be used at the end of the year to cover for budget shortfalls.
Two years ago, the then school board set aside $2 million of those revenue funds to pay for capital projects. Since then, $400,000 has been spent, leaving $1.6 million available for new projects.
Board member Eddie Elsberry said the availability of that money makes this the ideal time to build the tennis courts.
“We need to do it now or it may never get done,” Elsberry said.
He joined Hayes on the losing end of a 3-2 vote.
Citing safety concerns, all five board members voted to spend $200,000 to replace six light poles at the Chattooga High School baseball field.
Several of the poles have started to bend noticeably, creating concerns about a pole snapping and potentially hurting some one and/or doing damage to the facilities.
Facilities and Maintenance Director Johnny Worsham had hoped to also replace lights at the CHS football field but ran out of time to get it done before the season starts on Friday.
Worsham told The News the lights and wiring at the football field are aged and needed replacing but the process is slow and expensive.
“We decided to go ahead and get the poles fixed at the baseball field and then get the work done at the football field before next season,” he said.