BENTON—A joint meeting between the village of Benton and the Benton School Board determined new lighting will be installed at Swift Park this summer.
The lights shorted out after being struck by a foul ball several weeks ago, sending an electric current down the first baseline fence. For safety, the lights have been shut off until the damaged one could be replaced.
On May 18, the Benton village and school boards discussed how and when to replace the lights. Swift Park is owned by the village, but the school has an agreement for use of the park.
Village president Gary McCrea recommended splitting the cost evenly between the two entities. He said there is approximately $7,500 worth of wire needed and a transformer. The village would be willing to eat those costs as well as furnish the labor to wire the poles.
“I don’t know how you [the school board] feel about lighting the tennis courts,” McCrea said. “Being as they are going to be here doing a project, and the lights at the tennis court aren’t worth anything anyway, we might as well replace those poles with 50-foot poles and get the whole project completed.”
McCrea said the lighting for the tennis courts would benefit the school-age children who typically use the court.
The school board expressed concern about using the tennis court lighting as classes use the court only during the day for class; there are no organized teams through the school for tennis.
The project with the tennis court is estimated to cost $200,000 with the village covering an additional $10,000 for the wire, transformer and labor.
“We didn’t discuss anything at all about the tennis court lights at our meeting,” Ryan Carver, village president, said. “That would involve taxpayers from outside of the village helping with that part. It will be village kids using the tennis court mostly.”
The village board explained that the tennis court lights would add to the safety at the park during other events such as football and baseball games. Updating all of the lights would increase the visual appeal of the park as a whole as well.
McCrea said the tennis courts are being resurfaced this year as a separate village project at a village expense of approximately $35,000.
“I don’t think we should act on it until we’ve talked with the whole board,” Mick Vaughn of the Benton School Board said.
Carver said he wanted to talk to district administrator Kyle Luedtke to see if the school’s budget would allow the added expense of the tennis court lights before committing to it.
“That wasn’t even on our radar,” Carver said.
McCrea said the village would be willing to pay for the project costs up front if the school didn’t want to use fund balance to cover the expense all at once.
One bid has been secured for the project, estimated at $175,000-185,000 for the athletic fields and an additional $15,000 for the tennis courts. Several other companies are being contacted for bids.
The school is looking into grant opportunities to help offset using fund balance for the project. Principal Lisa Lawrence said there may be grant opportunities the school and village can apply for.
The two groups decided than any donations made would be split between the village and school to offset expenses of both entities.
No official vote was taken, but a consensus was reached to proceed with securing bids for the project. The village will take the lead on the project and choose the vendor to work with. The school will pay the village for its half of the project once an agreement with a vendor is in place.
The village’s clerk will draw up the agreement once a vendor is chosen.
The school board said the tennis court lighting would be discussed at its next meeting, June 8.