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Indoor tennis facility shot down

There will be no indoor tennis facility built on North Whidbey; at least not anytime soon.

North Whidbey Park and Recreation commissioners turned down a resolution at their monthly meeting on Tuesday night that would allow an indoor tennis facility to operate under the Park District as a separate enterprise.

Needing a 4 to 1 majority vote, commissioners Harvey Prosser and Tom Johnson opted against the resolution brought to the table by commissioner Fred Henninger.

Henninger, also president of the Whidbey Island Tennis Association, was supported in voting by Commissioner Brien Lillquist. Commissioner chair Janet Sabalausky didn’t vote, as there was no possibility of the resolution passing with two no’s.

A proposal for the tennis facility was initially brought to the board in January, suggesting the building would be constructed completely from private funds and placed on leased land from the Oak Harbor School District.

According to Henninger, he only wanted the Park District to operate the facility, stating WITA couldn’t by state law because they are a non-profit organization. After the building was constructed, it was supposed to pay for itself on self-sufficient funds.

This is where problems arose, according to Prosser and Johnson.

Although he admitted he was impressed by the opinions of the 10-plus tennis supporters who spoke on the issue, Prosser voiced his concerns to what would happen if the tennis facility failed to support itself.

“I’m not happy with the current tennis proposal because there are too many ‘probably wills’,” he said.

Henninger assured the board that the school district stated they would be interested in taking the $1 million facility over if it failed, but no such guarantee was in writing.

“If the proponents of the tennis facility are mistaken about the facility’s ability to pay its own way, the school district has indicated they will be glad to take over ownership of the 30,000-square-foot indoor recreational building,” Henninger said.

The school board has not committed to such an agreement, Superintendent Rick Schulte said.

Johnson was also concerned as to whether the park district would have to spend money from its general fund to support the tennis facility.

“We’re not going to receive any money, we’re not supposed to expend any money on this facility, but yet it appears we’re going to have to spend money to make it happen — to start out,” he said.

Henninger disagreed, stating “no pool money should go to support the tennis facility.” The Park District spends almost all its money on the swimming pool.

Henninger’s efforts to defend the facility and the presence of 15 WITA supporters were to no avail, but future proposals are not out of the question.

Possibilities of rewording a resolution or sending the tennis facility to a special election or general election were mentioned as alternatives in the coming months.

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