Town officials last week approved an approximately $18,000 contract with a Harwinton-based company to prepare the clay tennis courts at Mead Park for play this spring.
Putnam Tennis Courts will grade and level the surfaces, as well as tape the lines of the eight courts at Mead, following a 3-0 vote by the Board of Selectmen at its Feb. 23 meeting.
“One of our biggest concerns that we have recently with the clay courts is getting them open in a timely manner,” Parks Superintendent John Howe told the selectmen during the meeting, held via videoconference.
The town received bids from three companies to do the work and “we’d like to go with Putnam Tennis, which has done most of the work at Mead Park over the last 25, 30 years,” he said.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kathleen Corbet and Nick Williams voted in favor of the $18,509 contract. It includes a bonus of $2,099 for getting the work done early. The town typically opens the courts mid-May, officials have said.
Three years ago, the town was late in opening the “Hartru” courts at Mead when a different contracted company—one that had come in at a lower price than Putnam—failed to deliver the clay material.
That company has since gone out of business, Howe said.
Use of the courts at Mead Park and overall popularity of tennis, including the town’s clinics, rose sharply amid the COVID-19 pandemic, officials have said. Recreation officials reported last summer that the town had sold 216 total passes compared to 144 the prior year. Demand for the sport is so high that town funding bodies in the budget season now underway are considering a proposal to charge a fee for use of the hard-surface courts at New Canaan High School in order to offset the cost of having an attendant there to ensure players are following rules such as for time limits.
Regarding the courts at Mead Park, Public Works Director Tiger Mann told the selectmen that the 15% bonus is designed to help ensure that the town meets its target opening date. Rewarding a company for getting work done early is more feasible than instituting an after-the-fact penalty system, he said.
“We have had difficulty opening the courts,” he said.
Mann added, “Mainly it comes down to, you can’t give a penalty without a bonus and penalties are very, very difficult to assess, so we felt we’ll incentivize with a bonus and see how it goes this year.”
Mann’s comments came in response to a question posed by Keith Richey about what commitment the town was getting from Putnam regarding when they would open the clay courts. The chair of the Parking Commission, Richey was a guest at the meeting. Moynihan advised Richey that as a guest he is not supposed to ask questions.