Town board ponders court sports funding

By Hank Lohmeyer


Cedaredge trustees find themselves in the position of playing referee for a contest between local tennis players and a community of pickleball players.

The pickleball players are working to establish their popular new sport using town facilities -- once the preserve of tennis -- and they have asked the town to budget funding of their activity. But the group's effort is running into political headwinds.

"We are asking the Town of Cedaredge to budget approximately $2,100 to fund your estimated cost of $600 each for the [striping] of three courts for pickleball, and for two additional nets at $160 each for the 2016 spring use," said pickleball players Karen Locke and Jeannie Pippin in an August letter to the town recreation committee.

"We believe [striping] of courts can be properly done for less money ... Once we are up and running with proper courts, we will be in a better position to raise funds (grant dollars perhaps) for the fourth court to be [striped] and an additional net.

"We have approximately 40-plus individuals on our pickleball contact list and are still growing."

But there is a bit of competition, on both athletic and political grounds, being generated to the pickleball players' request

The pickleball players' letter was followed a few days later by an email sent to Town Administrator Katie Sickles from tennis player and town recreation committee member Bill Welch. Welch had previously addressed the town board citing concerns that the large number of pickleball players might overrun use of courts intended for, and funded in part by local tennis players.

However, those early concerns have apparently abated as Welch's e-mail began, "When playing tennis, we have amicably shared the courts with pickleball players. From this limited experience it does not seem that two dozen pickleball players are going to show up and dominate the courts."

However, there are other issues needing to be dealt with, the e-mail goes on to say. "The pickleball players are apparently requesting three courts be [striped] for their use. If it is decided to stripe courts for next year, I would strongly suggest only one tennis court be [striped] and that those two pickleball courts run north/south which will have less impact on tennis players using the other court concurrently."

Local politicking over pickleball doesn't end there. During a town board discussion of the pickleballers funding request at a Sept. 3 workshop, trustees aired a view that pickleball players should be campaigning for a 25 percent sales tax increase that town hall wants for funding "healthy living lifestyles." Welch's e-mail sounded the same theme.

"On the other hand," wrote Welch, "if the [tax increase] ballot measure should fail, then I think it up to the 40-plus pickleball players to step up and contribute generously to the town for the modification of the existing courts."

The trustee's Sept. 3 discussion also explored other issues: about who pays and who doesn't; about expectations for funding and the attitudes that are being expressed; about whether money is being demanded or should be contributed; and, about tennis players' and golfers' financial contributions to their respective sports.

The town board earlier this summer had agreed to spend money and buy a net and a set of pickle ball paddles for loan to pickleball players. And trustees are now discussing another tentative solution: that if it costs $1,200 to stripe two pickleball courts, the town might pay for striping one and the pickleball community could pay for striping the other one.

While the town's proposal for a "healthy lifestyles" sales and use tax is already creating disagreement and competition for money, trustees themselves are contemplating how tax money should be spent on all similar activities.

A proposed resolution already under consideration by the town board states, "The board of trustees have determined that residents should not be taxed only to have the town tax dollars contributed to programs or projects that individual residents could support on their own."