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Keokuk Tennis Courts to Proceed

May 17, 2013

A popular project in Keokuk was able to get back on track after serious concerns surfaced during the Keokuk City Council's latest meeting.

The tennis courts near Keokuk High School are in bad shape.

The four tennis courts next to Calvert Stadium are in pretty rough shape.

One of the members of the Keokuk High School boy's tennis team told the city council the courts are the worst in the area.

There is an agreement in place that holds the city and the school district responsible for maintenance (60% City/40% School).

Go out there at any time during the summer and you will see people of all ages and skill levels playing there.

It has been years, though, since anything was done.

A local fundraising campaign is underway to change that, led by Mary Ellen Pfeifer.

Pfeifer says $45,000 has been raised in less than one year from more than 100 contributors from all over.

"There is just such a broad support," says Pfeifer.  "You cannot imagine how many people have come up to me and said they are going to bring me money.  The smallest donation I have had is $5 but someone also handed me a check for $1,000."

Pfeifer also received verbal commitments of up to $50,000 from both the city and the school district.

She says everything was going well until communication broke down earlier this month.

"I am not exactly sure what happened," says Pfeifer.  "I think there was some miscommunication between who wanted to do the extra courts."

The idea of changing the scope of the project to include courts beyond the four near Calvert Stadium is new.

It's based on the potential price tag for the project falling from $175,000 to about $103,000 due to a new material being used.

Mayor Tom Marion says the city wants to use any extra money to improve courts in Tolmie Park and along 5th Street.

"We want to open up another area of the city," says Marion, "and that would be the 5th Street tennis courts.  They are in dire straights and we would get more bang for the buck because we would get two junior training courts."

Marion says the school district was not receptive to the plan for the 5th Street Court.

Superintendent Tim Hood was not available after the meeting to confirm the district's take on the additional courts.

There also appeared to be some ill-will during the city council meeting, likely due to a meeting held earlier in the week between Marion and several school district representatives.

No mention was made of it, but Marion was adamant that he was now opposed to the project, especially since there is no money in the project in the budget.

The decision was not the mayor's to make, though, and the Keokuk City Council chose to proceed with the tennis court improvements.

7th Ward Alderwoman Susan Dunek says the panel could not go back on a project that has such community support.

"Even though these courts are located at the high school, they are not the high school courts," says Dunek.  "They are for the community.  Go out there at any time during the summer and you will see people of all ages and skill levels playing there.  It is really an important facility."

The Keokuk City Council asked Marion to draft a letter of intent for the project.

The goal is to give the Keokuk School Board something in writing in anticipation of next week's meeting, when tennis court bids will be considered.

Dunek says the letter will state the city will cover 60% of the cost of the project, after grant funding and local donations are used.

"What was important tonight is that we see our way through the conversation so the city and the school board could work together to bring the citizens our support for the project that they have worked so hard to make happen."

Pfeifer says she is pleased the city council maintained its commitment to the project, despite the miscommunication.

She says it’s a great opportunity for Keokuk to improve what have been called the worst high school tennis courts in the area through cooperation and teamwork.