Mount Airy officials are supporting much-needed upgrades of city school tennis courts — including a $50,000 allocation of municipal funding — in order to fulfill an earlier commitment.
But the ball is now in the court of Surry County officials, who soon will decide on whether to fund the lion’s share, $225,000, toward an improvement project for courts at both Mount Airy High School and Mount Airy Middle School.
While the county government has funding responsibility for maintaining buildings and other facilities at public schools in Surry, Mount Airy also has been involved in the tennis issue over the years through an agreement dating to 1991 for the high school courts.
The agreement, which expired in 2006, called for the six courts there to be available for use by the general public at times when they were not occupied by school players, such as during matches. It involved the city government earmarking $5,000 each year toward repairs and maintenance. The six courts at the middle school were built in the latter part of the 1990s and also are used by the public.
That initial participation by the city was revisited in 2013, when the high school courts had fallen into major disrepair and the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 to renew the funding commitment first made in the 1990s.
In August 2013, the commissioners approved spending $50,000 toward tennis court improvements, which represented 10 years of the $5,000-per-year repair/maintenance pact.
The timing of the original agreement was such that those expenditures were not needed while it was in effect, based on discussion at a city commissioners meeting last week.
“The courts lasted longer than 10 years and the agreement went away,” Commissioner Jon Cawley said then regarding how the courts outlived the agreement.
Cawley also had urged the board to make the allocation in 2013 to help alleviate the deteriorating condition of the high school courts, which ultimately was not addressed.
“I don’t think the school system moved forward at that time — and the money (from the municipality) was not set aside at that time,” City Manager Barbara Jones said at the meeting regarding work on the high school courts. The facilities have since deteriorated even more.
State of disrepair
Now a push is under way to improve the courts at both the high and middle schools by Dr. Greg Little, the city schools’ superintendent.
Jones said at last week’s meeting that Little had asked that the Mount Airy commissioners revisit their 2013 action in terms of whether they still wanted to participate in a proposed repair project. The superintendent sought to know if he could count on the earlier $50,000 commitment to go toward its total cost.
And the city commissioners were quick to lend their monetary support, especially given the condition of the high school tennis courts.
Cawley, who is the baseball coach at Mount Airy High, said the courts are in terrible shape, including large cracks and holes in the playing surface.
“There’s no way you can repair that,” Cawley advised his fellow city officials.
While a resurfacing job is eyed for the middle school courts, those at the high school are to be dug up and replaced. This will involve milling down to a solid surface and building up from there.
The city commissioners generally seemed to be of the opinion that renewing the $50,000 allocation should be done without hesitation to live up to the earlier promise.
“It was a commitment made in 2013,” Commissioner Shirley Brinkley reminded. “I think we need to follow through.”
But Brinkley suggested that the city expenditure — which will be included in Mount Airy’s upcoming 2016-2017 budget, based on the meeting discussion — be contingent on the county’s funding participation in the project.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.