City Council Serves Setback To Pickleball Project

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By Joe Foreman, Editor

Members of the Southwest Iowa Pickleball Committee voiced disappointment and frustration last week after the Glenwood City Council failed to pass a motion calling for the city to contribute $10,000 toward a project that would turn the city’s dilapidated tennis courts on South Vine Street into a six-court pickleball complex.

Members of the pickleball committee have been working for more than two years to secure donations and grants for the project that carries an estimated price tag of $150,000. Dr. Jacque Young, committee spokesperson, said over $80,000 has been raised and for the project, including a $25,000 grant from the Wellmark Foundation. Included in the $80,000 is the city’s “in-kind” offer to remove what’s left of the tennis courts. The removal is projected to carry a price tag of around $20,000.

Young said she has been in contact with a representative of the Enhance Iowa Board who encouraged the pickleball committee to apply for a Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) grant to help fund the pickleball project. However, Young said a financial commitment from the city and the county is needed before the grant application, due in April, can be submitted. The pickleball committee is requesting $10,000 from both the city and Mills County.

The council motion to kick in $10,000 for the project failed as a result of a 2-2 tie, with Dan McComb and Jeremy Rodman voting “yes” and Laurie Smithers and Holly Jackson voting “no.” One council seat is currently unoccupied.


“We’re really bummed,” Young said. “We’ve put a lot of effort into this. It’s something that would really benefit the city.”
Young noted that pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country and is an activity that can be enjoyed by all age groups. She added that adults have limited recreational opportunities in Glenwood.


Among the supporters of the pickleball project is Glenwood Mayor Ron Kohn, who said the funds could be budgeted over two fiscal years - $5,000 in the current year, which ends June 30, and $5,000 in the 2019-2020 budget. The pickleball donation could be allocated from the general fund, Kohn said. There were discussions of using Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) funds for the project, but those dollars are being kept in reserve for YMCA and aquatic center repairs, the mayor noted.


“I have spoken in favor of this because we have the ability to provide the funds,” Kohn said. “It would have cleaned up an area in one of our parks and I think it would be a good activity for many citizens who would enjoy it over time.


“The pickleball people have worked very diligently to provide funding for it so I felt the $10,000 investment on our part would get us a $150,000 facility in return. I thought it was a good deal, but some  people didn’t agree with that.”
Kohn acknowledged that the tennis courts are  a community eye sore, but the city has no plans for the property if the pickleball project fails.


“As it stands, we have no plans for that area,” Kohn said.


Smithers said she is appreciative of the pickleball committee’s efforts but the project isn’t at the top of her priority list for the city.


“Financially and responsibly representing the city, I can’t in good conscious put $10,000 toward a new rec project when we have existing recreational facilities that need upkeep,” she said. “Not only that, I can’t in good conscious allocate $10,000 to that project when the city is in the position it’s in. I think we have other things that need to be a higher priority right now.”


Smithers said she solicited comments on social media from citizens to see what recreational projects they’d like to see the city tackle. She said the pickleball project was never mentioned, but she did receive comments about the need for better restroom facilities at city-owned parks and ballfields and sidewalk improvements.


Young said she’s holding out hope that the city will reconsider the matter after it fills its vacant Ward 2 seat on the council.


“My understanding was that we’d have the fifth person on the council when the vote was taken, but I guess that didn’t happen,” she said. “I’m hopeful it can be brought up again when the fifth person is brought on.”


Young said the committee hasn’t heard back on the donation request made to the county. She noted also that additional grants are being pursued, but the Wellmark Foundation dollars will be lost if the money isn’t spent this year.