Tennis facility swatted to city

Red tape is getting in the way of a nonprofit group’s plans to build, and give away, a state-of-the-art indoor tennis facility in the middle of Oak Harbor.

Members of Whidbey Island Tennis Association gave a presentation to the Oak Harbor City Council Tuesday night. They asked city leaders to accept the tennis facility, when built, as a gift.

The city’s legal department is going to research the feasibility of accepting the offer and will present a recommendation to the council at a future meeting.

The move surprised leaders of the North Whidbey Parks and Recreation District. The tennis association has been working with the district officials for years to get them to accept and run the facility.

Director Craig Carlson said he had no idea the association was going to the city. He admits that plans for the parks district to take on the facility ran into legal difficulty, but he said the district didn’t refuse the tennis association’s offer.

“We weren’t aware that they were dissatisfied with the progress,” he said.

But Fred Henninger, president of the tennis association, said in a phone interview Thursday that the group simply got tired of waiting for district officials to move ahead.

“We spent five years with the parks department without any avail,” he said.

One of the problems is that the parks district’s attorney advised that the tennis building be built as a public project, which means competitive bidding, prevailing wages and all the other government regulations. Carlson stressed that this opinion was only preliminary and that options hadn’t been explored.

But the association doesn’t want to do it that way. If the tennis facility is built as a public project, the costs would skyrocket.

Also, Charles Niedzialkowski, vice president of the tennis association, told the council that the group has been working with Ron Wallin of P&L General Contractors for years and they want him to do the project.

In addition, Henninger said an assortment of businesses and individuals are willing to donate time, labor and materials to the project.

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