Twenty-five to 30 Columbia Falls tennis supporters and CFHS tennis players showed up Monday evening at the Columbia Falls City Council meeting to voice their opinions about the state of the city’s courts.
After a prepared statement was read aloud by group spokesperson Mary Ellen Getts, several members of the group – including CFHS Athletic Director John Thompson – addressed the council regarding the state of the courts and what should be done about their condition.
Perhaps the most surprising, if not entertaining, move of the evening came from Columbia Falls City Attorney Eric Kaplan, who “took off the powdered wig” and addressed the Council as a private citizen rather than as City Attorney. Kaplan politely chastised past and present councils for neglecting the courts for years, and noted that it was not acceptable to expect citizens to raise the funds to maintain city facilities. He stated that the city would not ask the police chief to use his own funds to replace a police cruiser, nor would the city expect a city employee to buy their own computer, thus it was incongruent to expect the same of the citizens regarding the tennis courts.
The plan currently being pursued involves using “snap courts”, which are formed by a grid of hard plastic squares that snap together to form the court surface.
Think “giant Legos”.
Reality set in during later discussions, as the council members discussed the situation and agreed that while court maintenance is the city’s responsibility – funding is still an issue in a town that has limited sources of income. In a subsequent conversation with Columbia Falls City Manager Bill Shaw, I got the impression that the city was prepared to scrape up half of the estimated $180-200k to refurbish the city’s 4 courts.
At least 2 high schools refused to compete on the city’s courts this year, forcing the Columbia Falls High School tennis team to negotiate a deal to play their home matches on the courts at FVCC. These courts will be unavailable next year, as the new Glacier High School has reserved the right to use them for their team’s tennis matches.