Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Parking lot underway at Valley Forge Elementary School and so are tennis court usage fees!

VFES Parking lot

I was surprised how many heavy equipment vehicles are required to add a few parking spaces at Valley Forge Elementary School. Passing by the school on Walker Road, you couldn’t miss the mountain of dirt, storm water drainage system and assortment of backhoes and bulldozers. Increasing the size of the VFES parking lot is one of the school district’s summer facilities projects.

While I stopped to take a photo of the parking lot construction, I walked over to the infamous tennis courts. It was nice to see the tennis court door unlocked and available to use. It’s been years since I played tennis, but I couldn’t help but notice how pristine the courts looked – the playing surface well maintained, the lines recently painted and the net in great shape. VFES neighbor Don Detwiler has maintained the tennis courts for years – free of charge.

Tennis courts signageThe VFES tennis courts are available through the summer for residents to use free of charge but the start of school in six weeks will also mark the start of user fees for local tennis players. At the District’s June 14 facilities meeting, discussion of usage fees ranged from a suggested $28K annual association charge to hourly fees of $15/hr. weekdays to $25/hr. weekends.

The rental of the courts for private lessons and tennis camps was established at the June facilities meeting at rate of $30/hr. for one court and $60/hr. for two courts with fees to start immediately. Signage is now on the tennis court fences reflecting those fees. To schedule the use of the courts for lesson or camp, there is a notice to call the District’s business office 8 AM – 4 PM, Monday – Friday. It is completely unclear to me how the District ‘polices’ the use of the courts by instructors — there’s no lock box and the door was ajar. Shouldn’t the details of how the process works be known to the public?

The usage fee for individuals to use the tennis courts will be determined at the August facilities comittee meeting and those fees will presumably begin with the start of school year in September. If the fee schedule for the use of the tennis courts for instruction is determined in the facilities committee meeting, I guess the facilities committee will also determine the usage fee for residents. It’s impossible for many people to go to the monthly facilities meetings as they are held on Friday at 2 PM. I would have expected the usage fees to be discussed at a regular school board meeting. In fact, because the usage fee was not previously discussed at the monthly school board meeting, I thought there was still an option not to charge residents a fee. But based on the signage on the fence, there’s no question that there will be a fee — only question remains as to how much it will cost the residents. Doesn’t it seem odd to anyone else that policy is determined in a committee meeting and then is sanctioned though the use of signage. Shouldn’t the tennis court usage and the fee schedule be available for public disucussion at a regular school board meeting?

VFES Tennis Courts

I have several questions in regards to the VFES tennis courts — (1) what is the cost basis for determining the District fee schedule (remember, Mr. Detwiler has maintained the courts for free, for years); (2) what is the District’s process for collecting the user fees; (3) how much will the District’s collection process cost; (4) how will the tennis courts be policed; and (5) what is the estimated cost to police the courts.

If the TE School District is going to charge residents for the use of the tennis courts, why not charge them for the use of the school playground equipment on the weekends or for the use of the high school track?

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  1. I totally agree with your concerns.
    I also will say that this article points to 2 idiotic situations. One is the construction of a parking lot that is only needed 2-5 times a year. The second is the charging of fees to use the courts.
    Motel has clearly shown his arrogance once again… he is annoyed that anyone questioned his decision to remove those tennis courts so now he must show that he is in charge and damn anyone that questions my judgement, decisions and authority. He clearly should be replaced.

    1. Papa you are right. What it does is expose themselves to the public of Dan’s and the boards consistent way they retaliate if people question the moves they make. This tennis court situation shows the public why the tension is in the hallways at the schools. You keep your head down and stay quiet. If you question you will see the ramifications. The public questioned here, and now you see. The public questioned the aides situation. They showed us. They never ever like to be questioned.

  2. You raise some good concerns Pattye. While I can’t speak toward the need for the parking spaces, I see no problem with charging a fee for using the tennis courts – especially given how much uproar there was about eliminating the courts. Certainly some additional information about the price (sounds a bit high to me) and how it will be collected/enforced is important.

  3. Did the school board ever really thank VFES neighbor Don Detwiler for maintaining the tennis courts over the years? No one asked him to do it. What a service to the members of the community that played there. I was shocked that they didn’t take him up on his offer to continue to do so. It’s a slap in the face to lock the tennis courts and start charging the public Mainline rates. Contrary to the boards opinion that they are “good neighbors”, that’s not a very neighborly thing to do.

    They had a similar greedy idea back when Teamer Field was turfed. They were going to make so much money by renting it out. This was one of the points in justifying the cost that they spun to the public. That hasn’t happened. The field is going to need to be re-turfed soon. Get ready for that cost. It certainly won’t be covered by the “windfall” rental fees collected so far.

    What’s next, fencing off the playgrounds and charging kids to play on the equipment. Oops, better not give them any ideas.

  4. Teamer field, ah yes… So now they are selling billboard spaces around the field on the fences.. Ugly yes necessary, well its a revenue stream.
    If I am correct, what overrode the renting out of teamer to clubs, etc was the neighborhood outcry over traffic, noise, lights too. In an effort to appease the surrounding homeowners, teamer is mostly quiet and not producing revenues for this reason, except of course for high school use. Yep, there is always a louder constituency.

    1. It certainly is! It’s another grand plan that doesn’t recognize that either the demand isn’t there and/or people aren’t willing to pay the asking price for it. It will be interesting to see if the tennis courts produce a revenue stream. Maybe a trickle?

  5. the renting of teamer is a brand new option. this was part of the same discussion they had about the tennis courts and other new options for rentals.

  6. No so.
    .Teamer rental came up with the new fee schedule .it took place last summer after a year in discussion at Facilities ,Finance & Policy committees. The tennis court fee came up this June and will be discussed at the August Facilities meeting. The advertising campaign was discussed at meetings that’s about a year old also.

    1. Correct! Over the years the school board has expanded the rental program at Teamer. Initially they limited each community youth sports league to one rental per year to sponsor and conduct skills clinics.

        1. Good point. Tennis courts, football stadium rentals etc. are not going to generate any significant revenues. Officials know this. These are just red herrings to keep people from focusing on the real and true waste that burdens our school system.

  7. CHV,
    The fee structure may be discussed at the August meeting, but based on this sign, it reads that there is no question whether or not there will be a fee. Apparently, the decision to charge for usage was made in committee and now the dollar amount will be decided in committee. I dont understand why this matter is not in front of the public and the entire school board at a regular meeting. I have used the courts for about 5 years and I would like to know how they will structure the fees and the actual usage of the courts.I don’t paying to use the courts if the fee is reasonable but how will this pay-to-play work? What happens if I want to use it on weekends will someone from the school district need to come unlock the gate? If the facilities committee going to have those answers in August?

    1. Which is why the district wanted to knock them down. They are “nice to have” not “need to have.”

  8. I remember when the School Board and Township removed winter rec basketball from the middle schools to make/save a few bucks. It was something for teens to do in the winter, and very popular. Kids met at the middle school gym for pickup games. Many of them planned their Saturdays around it. They could walk to the schools. How much could that have cost, the $10 an hour for one adult to sit there from 9 to 1 so the kids could meet up for pickup games? It was so sad when they did that. They could have at least saved it at one of the middle schools. School Board claimed Township ended it but that was because they charged the Township so much! Instead they rented the gyms to sports leagues and our own T/E kids were left with no place to go/play. Typical of T/E. And re: Motel, my friend attended a School Board meeting once and he yelled at her and reduced her to tears. She never went back.

    1. I remember the winter rec program too. The kids LOVED it. For this activity to be nixed is outrageous. For What? To save what? Less than a drop in the bucket. We have got to get new school board members who will look at the real costs that are a financial drag on our school district and stop focusing attention on these meaningless attempts at cost savings (tennis court fees?) that do nothing but take away great programs for the kids that cost very little. People in this district are smart. They understand these diversionary tactics. The fact that they would take away this activity that was so important to these young people just goes to show, how little officials really consider what is best for the children of this district and it also goes to show where their true interests lie.

      The cost of getting rid of this activity was much higher than the few pennies saved by not offering it.

  9. We had our granddaughter with us yesterday and we went to the playgrounds at New Eagle Elementary School two times. I suppose I should send a check to Motel for a usage fee.

  10. How is a tredyffrin resident to know when she or he will be bumped off the courts in favor of someone using the courts for private paid lessons (a business)? Shouldn’t residents come first?

      1. If you try to play tennis at the Tredyffrin Library courts, most of the courts are usually taken by some tennis instructor who is giving lessons and using the township courts for his own profit. My kids have been turned away time and again by this individual who is making big bucks by taking away a recreational opportunity for township residents. Nobody polices this guy, apparently. He often takes up three courts at a time.

  11. so now Dr Waters is making nice by inviting us to a Convocation.. Whats up with that? Still alot of bitterness and next year is looming and the teachers contract negotiations too… Too bad there is skepticism when it comes to this man now.. Or is there?

  12. IMHO – We have to take this at face value. Thank-you to Dr. Waters for doing the right thing.

    Let’s all come together and enjoy this outcome. We need people we can trust. Processes like last night build trust, and not just because the outcome went the way it went. The communication was open honest direct and respectful. Everyone can’t always get their way but if the process is open and transparent, everyone will be held accountable and although there will always be disappointment, bitterness will be pushed aside and replaced with the knowledge that citizens were heard and their opinion considered.

    We will deal with the teachers contract negotiations when the time comes.

  13. There has been a public convocation every fall. Every fall. This is not making nice…just a reminder that the TE school district is about the public EDUCATION of the eligible township residents.

  14. Only if the teachers contract did not pay them for it. Attending is part of the contractual time historically.

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