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The Progress - Index (Petersburg, Virginia)

PRINCE GEORGE - Renovations to the Prince George High School tennis courts were completed this week - almost three months later than expected.

The award-winning tennis team practiced on the renovated courts yesterday for the first time in months. Before that, student tennis players have been practicing on asphalt or at other county parks. Both boys and girls tennis teams have also had to play all matches at other schools.

That situation has doubled the time it takes to play matches since one team cannot begin their match until the other has finished.

The Prince George School Board expected the repairs to the cracked and worn courts that date back to 1976 to be completed by theof January, in time for the mid-February tennis tryouts.

The school board authorized the division to enter into a contract with Moseley Architects that was not to exceed $560,000 at its Oct. 14, 2013, meeting.

Since that time, the first layer of asphalt has been laid. But the cold and unpredictable weather has prevented the top two coats from drying, and partially caused the delay, said R.L. Knott, the clerk of the works for Prince George schools. "We've had the worst winter in five years," Knott said.

The other part of the delay, he said, is getting approval from both the Board of Supervisors and the school board in addition to working with the contractors.

"We anticipated on having it done before tennis season, but we got caught on weather and got a little bit of a slow start on it," Knott said. "Getting everybody on line is a little difficult. It is harder to get a project going today than it used to."

Knott added that once the renovations were complete, the remaining tennis matches will be on Prince George courts.

The School Board contract for $560,000 went over the $535,000 budget that supervisors had set.

After learning that the school board already entered into a contract that exceeded the budgeted amount, supervisors approved a resolution authorizing the county to issue $21,500 more in debt than what was originally planned at their Jan. 28 meeting. Before the vote was cast, questions were asked.

"Why would the board tell you to go for an estimate that is several tens of thousand dollars more than what this board had approved," Supervisor William Gandel asked School Superintendent Dr. Bobby Browder on Jan. 28.

Browder answered by saying that the $535,000 cost estimate was calculated over a year ago and does not take into account rising inflation rates. During the October 2013 School Board meeting when the contract was authorized, School Board members refused to cut amenities like fewer light poles and ramps for disabled people from the projected cost.

Felicia Fishburne, the parent of a tennis player on the boys team, worries what impact the unfinished courts will have on her son's performance.

"They really haven't had the experience on the real, hard courts. They laid asphalt over the area where the courts would be. It's not the ideal surface for playing tennis," Fishburne said. "Now they have been practicing and doing tryouts on the unfinished courts."

Adding to the frustration, she said, is that the team has seen several projected completion dates pass them by.

"We've heard so many variations. It's inconsistent information. It's very frustrating," Fishburne said. "We just feel that it is very inconsiderate. We are going out of our way unnecessarily. These things should have been looked into way before the season started."

Tennis players did not return a request for comment.

Paul Cash, the former tennis coach who retired last year, said that the unfinished renovations have put the team at a disadvantage.

"Practicing on unfinished courts is not the way for a high school team to have to practice. Bounce, spin, footwork, all parts of the game are changed. Terrible way to have to run a high school sport. Would this had happened for football? Basketball? Baseball? Softball?" Cash said in an email.

He also said that the longer travel time and different surfaces associated with away matches have had a negative impact on tennis players.

Cash's retirement ended almost three decades of coaching. Cash led the boys team to 284 victories while the girls team racked up 359 victories during his tenure. The girls team also managed back- to-back undefeated district seasons 21 times under Cash.

"I think the company that received the contract knew real well that there was no way to start construction in late fall and expect completion during the winter months in Virginia. Everyone in that business knows you can't do that ... to blame it on the unusually cool and wet winter is also ridiculous," Cash said in an email. "As a Prince George county taxpayer I am very upset. As their former coach, I am more upset and I feel real sorry for the players .... what has happened to them is wrong and never should have occurred."

 

April 26, 2014

 

 
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