BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A group looking to build six pickleball courts at Victory Park in Fort Madison got a $50,000 boost from city coffers Tuesday night.
The Fort Madison Pickleball Association requested the money as part of what the group anticipates will be a $250,000 project.
The city has already pulled the former tennis surfaces off the courts at the park unveiling a lot of patching and sealing and dead spots.
Councilwoman Donna Amandus, who is helping spearhead the pickleball effort, said the surface is dead and can’t be saved.
Phyllis Porter, who was speaking to the council on behalf of the group, said the project will basically have to start from scratch.
“We’ve researched some grants that could be possible to help us as well. But most of those grants want to know what’s been invested in the project,” Porter said.
The group has raised about $12,000 for the project including $8,500 in the past week.
“We’re gonna get there, it’s just gonna be a matter of time,” Porter said. “Keep in mind, cities are building pickleball courts. When this project is done, Victory Field will no longer be an eyesore for Fort Madison.”
Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker asked if the group was starting from scratch, is Victory Park the best location. Amandus said it is because the park is centrally located and replacing the old surface will take accomplish two goals.
Councilman Tom Schulz agreed that there is a significant amount of investment going into the park to make it work where a new flat open spot might be a cheaper option for the park.
Amandus said the group discussed having it at Riverview Park and said Victory is the perfect solution to all the problems that exist there now.
“There’s no reason not to use that space as far as I’m concerned. I don’t understand why it would be cheaper to do it somewhere else other than the cost of demolition.”
Mayor Matt Mohrfeld said there could be some in-kind donations toward the creation of the new park. He also said that any funds should come from the city’s hotel/motel tax revenue stream.
Bowker said if it was coming out of that fund, she would make a motion to approve the funding.
Mohrfeld said the city should support the project from an arm’s length with in-kind help and funding assistance, but if the city were to take on the project, it would be tougher to fold in a lot of those other options.
Schulz said he would like the city’s cash contribution limited to $32,000 that was pulled out of the previous plan to rehab the tennis courts. He said then the rest could be included in in-kind donation from the city’s public works for tree removal and other things that could be done without increasing costs to the city.
Schulz when a step further and said he would like to see the project not cost the city anything, if the project doesn’t come to fruition, due to lack of funding.
“Why would we want to put $50,000 into a project that doesn’t actually get built,” Schulz said.
Amandus said the project won’t get started until all the money is raised.
“We need the $50,000 as seed money for grants, so as hard as our volunteers are working to get the money raised, this is a $50,000 investment or a $250,000 asset to the city,” Amandus said.
Schulz said the $250,000 price is way escalated compared to what it will actually cost.
Amandus said Schulz doesn’t have a clue what it would cost to build.
“These are numbers we’re getting from other pickleball courts,” Amandus said.
One of those cost estimates came from Mt. Pleasant and the city bidded the project, which Schulz said inflated the cost by 30 to 40%.
“I’m not against putting money into this, but we don’t need to go into this blindly throwing cash (at it),” he said.
Schulz said if the city’s going to put $50,000 into the project then the city shouldn’t put any man hours into it, or that donation then goes to $70,000 to $80,000.
The council then voted, 6-0, to contribute the $50,000 cash infusion into the project. Mohrfeld clarified after the meeting that would be a cash contribution and city in-kind contributions would be on top of the cash donation contingent on the group raising the rest of the funds.