Centre Wellington, Fergus Tennis Club enter 10-year agreement with review after one year

ELORA – Centre Wellington council recently revisited its discussion about a 10-year grounds use agreement with the Fergus Tennis Club.

Ultimately council voted to approve the agreement at the April 29 meeting, with councillors Bob Foster and Stephen Kitras in opposition.

However, there was a caveat: the portion of the agreement that controls court usage, schedules and times of use between tennis club members and the public, among other items, will be reviewed within the year, as well as three years after the agreement is signed.

The 10-year agreement was originally brought to a Centre Wellington committee of the whole meeting on March 18 but after a community delegation from Silvana Sangiuliano regarding equitable court access, the committee of the whole deferred its decision and asked the Community Services Advisory Committee (SCAC) to look at the agreement again.

Pat Newson, managing director of community services, presented the results of the amended SCAC agreement to the committee of the whole on April 23 and again discussed the agreement at the April 29 council meeting.

The previous 10-year agreement with the Fergus Tennis Club ran from 2008 to 2018 and expired in December.

“The Fergus Tennis Club promotes the sport and the use of the courts in the community and the Fergus Tennis Club has been a responsible and good custodian of the courts,” she said.

“The agreement permits the Fergus Tennis Club exclusive use of the Tower Street courts and use of the sportsplex courts at designated times.”

At the sportsplex, the tennis club has exclusive access to the courts outside of pay as you play hours, which occur whenever there is a customer service representative at the front desk.

In response to Sangiuliano’s concerns Newson said the sportsplex would be introducing a wristband policy to record when the player begins play. The wrist band will be different colours for different days of the week.

All users, both the public and members of the tennis club, will be required to sign in during pay as you play hours.

“I have to admit our stats were not great because many members were not coming in to sign in, they were just using their pass and going right onto the courts,” Newson said. “Our hope is that by adding a wristband policy, members and non-members must check in at our desk so … we can better track how many people are actually using the courts at what times.”

Newson also said new surveillance cameras would allow sportsplex staff to better see and monitor the tennis courts.

“If they saw someone who’s not in compliance then we could … send a staff person out to address the situation,” she said.

Fergus Tennis Club president Sheila Hogarth said the club is going to try to offer better communication with the public as well.

“We have … put out a new board on the sportsplex courts that we will now have everything listed so the public knows what’s going on,” she said.

Foster asked why the agreement has to be for 10 years. At the committee of the whole meeting he asked for three years as per the revision period then in the council meeting he asked for one year. 

“What is the purpose of having a 10-year agreement when we have spent so much time speaking about it, reviewing it in one year?” he said on April 29. “It makes sense to me to have simply a one year agreement.”

That time, he said, would give staff time to look at equitable use of the courts and any conflicts that arise. 

“We’ve had a lot of controversy and conflict and we’re planning on reviewing it in a year anyway,” he said. “I think we should make a one year agreement.”

Councillor Stephen Kitras agreed a one-year agreement would be more appropriate. 

“My concern is that it should only be for one year because … we’re going into a period where we know that the population is increasing here, so we know that the public desire for all our facilities is going to increase,” he said. “They’re soliciting more members so when it comes, they have a priority … and the public won’t have any say for that period of time.”

Kitras added he doesn’t want the township to enter into a 10-year agreement with the club without seeing the outcome of data collection planned for the next year. 

Newson explained the 10-year agreement is needed so that the Fergus Tennis Club can plan out its time.

“The agreement speaks to more than just the court time,” she said. “It talks about shared expenses, shared duties, who puts the windscreens up, who does the maintenance on the courts, who does all of those activities.

“They’re a volunteer organization, they’re planning volunteer work for year to year, their committees, so that’s why I would prefer a 10-year agreement.”

She added the agreement could be modified if both parties agree. 

Newson said she hopes to bring back data, within the year, on court conflicts, requirements for booking the courts, primetime usage, how many people are using the courts and whether or not it’s members or non-members who are primarily using the courts. At that point the necessity for  modifications to the agreement will be assessed. 

“If you want to just sign a one-year agreement year to year I don’t think that’s fair to the Fergus Tennis Club who are volunteers trying to fundraise and plan for capital improvements on the courts,” Newson said. 

All of council but Kitras and Foster voted to approve the grounds use agreement with the Fergus Tennis Club.

It will be reviewed within the year, and discussions will be held with the club and staff after three years to ensure the agreement is still appropriate.