Pickleball grant request gets council talking about fields

WASHINGTON — The grant proposal for new pickleball courts in Washington almost failed Tuesday night, but a second vote passed unanimously.

During the Tuesday night City Council meeting, a community group asked the city to endorse an application for grant money. The grant application is for a $5,000 Washington County Riverboat Foundation to fund a portion of the pickleball courts. The grant needed a city endorsement.

City Administrator Brent Hinson said the project is planned in the future capital improvement plan.

The plan is to resurface the tennis courts near Case Field for both tennis and pickleball. It is proposed to have two tennis courts and four pickleball courts.

Keith Lazar, who submitted the grant request, presented a bid from L.L. Pelling in the council packet. The bid is for $57,975 for the installation and resurfacing.

An additional $1,400 for nets and an unknown amount for benches would be added.

“We believe we could find volunteers to make two benches for the cost of the material,” Lazar said. “We would like to keep the total project cost to below $60,000.”

The Washington Iowa Betterment Foundation and The Brinton Trust have both committed $10,000 each payable over three years. Hinson said he helped the group apply for a $25,000 Wellmark Grant.

Council member Elaine Moore asked if there is any cost to the city for this project.

He said there is around $16,000 that the city could pay for. According to the grant proposal, the city could fund the local match needed to complete the project, being repaid with other grant funds over three years.

Because the court are school property but leased to the city, he reached out to the school district to split the cost.

Hinson said there is money budgeted up to $25,000.

Moore said the soccer fields do not have water, restrooms or benches.

“All of the sudden we can come up with $25,000 for pickleball, and we have been fighting for stuff for these kids,” Moore said.

The first vote failed with 3-2.

Council members Moore and Steve Gault voted no.

Gault said he voted no because he wants the city to finish a project before starting a new one.

Council member Danielle Pettit-Majewski asked how voting no helps the soccer kids or does anything except take an improvement from the community.

“How does saying no to this help anything else?” she asked.

She said without a pickleball court, Washington residents will go to other communities to play and the grant money will go support a different community.

“We need to have a way for people to feel like there’s something here for them,” she said.

Pettit-Majewski said she saw this summer that people need to have a way to relax in the city.

“Give people who have been stuck in their homes for a year something to do with their friends,” she said.

Pettit-Majewski said she was disappointed the measure did not pass on the first vote.

Council member Fran Stigers said the vote is just to approve the grant request.

Gault made a motion to reconsider.

The second vote passed unanimously.

Stigers said there needs to be a plan proposed to the council for soccer field improvements.

Hinson said he has never turned down a request or received a request for the soccer field.