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Athens council discusses tennis court to school board
City considers selling or giving the facility to the school board

By Bayne Hughes 340-2432

Should the Athens City Council sell its tennis court and turn over responsibility for maintaining the baseball field to the Athens school board?

The $5,000 expense of replacing the windscreen at the tennis court adjacent to Athens High has the council looking at selling or giving the court to the school system. The city also must periodically replace the nets.

The high school's tennis team is the court's main user.

During the first of two work sessions on the 2008 fiscal budget, Mayor Dan Williams suggested transferring ownership to the school system and then building another tennis court at the Athens Sports Complex.

City Councilwoman Millie Caudle said "it doesn't make sense" for the city to pay for facilities that the school system uses.

"They've got to understand, we're in a cost-cutting mode," Caudle said.

Councilman Ronnie Marks said he doesn't think the school board has been responsive or cooperative enough with the city. He said he tried unsuccessfully to discuss city issues with board members.

"We appoint the school board," Marks said. "We own them. We own the school system, so they should be willing to work with us."

Council President Harold Wales agreed, saying he wasn't happy with the response he got when he tried to talk to board members about the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

The city has a contract with the school system in which they swap services. The city uses school facilities like the gymnasium for youth basketball and the football stadium for the Fourth of July celebration.

The school system uses city facilities like the tennis court and softball fields. The city maintains the high school's baseball field, while the school system mows city property adjoining school property.

Thursday afternoon, Superintendent Orman Bridges Jr. said he thought "we always worked well with the city," and the contract was fair and reciprocal.

"We just need to discuss this with them," Bridges said.

Williams said he doesn't think city officials are set on changing their relationship with the school board, but they do need to review the contract. He said the council is looking at all possibilities for cutting expenses because it has so many proposed projects and expenses to consider while short on money.

Finance Director Evan Thornton presented the council with a projected $21.1 million budget with $20.8 million in expenditures. The council would have only about $288,000 remaining for any additional personnel or projects.

"This is a bare-bones budget that shows how much we would need to keep the doors open," Williams said.

Thornton's budget did not, however, include city departments' personnel needs or capital projects and outside agency requests, all of which would run to about $2.2 million if changes aren't made.

"We've got a lot of requests and projects and not a lot of money to go around," Williams said.

The council will meet again Friday at 9 a.m. at City Hall.

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