Talks continue over tennis court repairs

The school board on Tuesday delayed moving forward with plans to repair the aging and cracked tennis courts across from Laguna Beach High School.

The item would have given the Laguna Beach Unified School District the go-ahead to pay Sprotte + Watson Architecture and Planning Inc. $42,850 to produce design plans to improve the six courts on Park Avenue, but board members said they needed more information on the overall scope of the project before awarding the contract.

Both the city and school district fund the courts and officials from both agencies agree they need to be resurfaced and the surrounding fence repaired. The city favors court lighting and player benches. The school district prefers adding spectator seating, a shade structure over bleachers, and storage area.

School board members grappled with the extent of the resurfacing and whether to start the project sooner rather than later. The proposal included sandblasting, fixing cracks and adding a new synthetic surface, not jackhammering the old one, said Ted Doughty, the district's facilities director.

Board members Theresa O'Hare and Bill Landsiedel were reluctant to let Sprotte + Watson begin design plans that did not include an option for post-tension slabs.

"I am uncomfortable with this [proposal]," O'Hare said. "I don't have a cost [estimate] on that information in order to get a bid."

Post-tension involves treated, encapsulated steel cables being pulled to a specified tension to keep concrete from cracking, Brian Hoggard, a resurfacing specialist with Orange-based Zaino Tennis Courts Inc., wrote in an email.

Such a project could cost an additional $600,000, Doughty said.

"I'm afraid we're going to start someplace and not going to stop," Landsiedel said. "I want this done, but I don't want to come back in two years needing to resurface the courts.

"I am a tennis player, and those back two courts are uneven."

Per board direction, Doughty hopes to do a walk-through of the site with geologists to analyze soil conditions under the courts next week and return to the board with a revised architectural proposal.

One of the six courts already has a post-tension slab, Doughty said.

The board's unanimous discussion came on the heels of a special facilities meeting at district headquarters on Monday. Parents who attended that meeting questioned when repairs would be made.

"I don't understand why this keeps getting discussed and not getting done," said parent Michelle Jaeger, who is concerned about player safety.

"We had a kid who sprained his ankle two weeks ago [from slipping on sand]," she added.

David Vanderveen has two boys on the high school team and called court conditions unsatisfactory.

"The tennis courts are not being maintained to minimum standards," Vanderveen said. "We had a parent-student tournament and a serve hit a crack [in the courts], and the ball went in the opposite direction."

"The courts are continually dirty, and there are weeds growing up through the cracks," his wife, Sarah Vanderveen, added.

Board member Ketta Brown agreed the courts, which she deemed "an eyesore," need repair.

The city initially earmarked $210,000 for the tennis center project. City officials propose an additional $100,000, but that figure is being discussed in joint-use negotiations between school district and city staff. Under the current model, the city pays for 70% of the costs while the district pays 30%.

"If [post-tension] is feasible, it is the best option," Landsiedel said in a follow-up email. "The cost is the major factor in the analysis. We would love to have the post-tension feature, but it might end up adding $600,000 to the bill."

Board clerk Jan Vickers said the board is required to take the lowest responsible bid for the project's work.

Vanderveen said the district should spend the extra money for post-tension.

"You have to otherwise you are wasting money," Vanderveen said. "If you don't fix what's underneath, [the court] starts to crack. This will look good for a few months, and then it will be back to the same problem."

Vanderveen said he and a group of parents approached Zaino for a cost estimate two years ago.

Zaino estimated $275,000, which included installing five, 5-inch thick post-tension slabs on five of the six courts, in a proposal dated Aug. 30, 2011. The $275,000 also included labor and materials and installing new posts and nets on five of the courts. Hoggard emailed a copy of the proposal to the Coastline Pilot.

School board members need to approve any added options and district staff will return to the board for approval to solicit bids for construction, and then again for any final contract award.

Twitter: @AldertonBryce

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