Berlin Tennis Court Project Runs Into Unexpected Problems

Berlin Tennis Court Project Runs Into Unexpected Problems
The site of the former tennis courts at Stephen Decatur Park in Berlin is pictured. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – Town officials agreed to move ahead with improvements to the tennis courts at Stephen Decatur Park despite a cost increase.

The Berlin Town Council on Monday approved a $12,650 change order associated with the tennis court replacement currently underway. The cost increase comes as contractors encountered problems working on the easternmost courts.

“Our hand’s being forced,” said Josh Taylor an associate with Davis Bowen & Friedel, the town’s contract engineer.

The long-awaited $300,000 tennis court replacement project at Stephen Decatur Park began early this month. Contractors quickly advised town officials, however, that progress was hampered when they began milling the two courts closest to Route 113. Taylor said that when the milling machine was used the courts started to fail and crack. He said that was because substandard materials had been used when the courts were first built and that the proper installation process hadn’t been followed. Subsequent repairs also weren’t handled properly, as no binder was used between the various layers of asphalt.

“In a period of almost 30 years there’s been a lot of Band-Aids on top of other Band-Aids,” Mayor Gee Williams said.

To address the issue, Taylor said he was recommending that the town have the contractor level the asphalt — essentially install two layers of asphalt — on those courts for an additional $12,650.

The other option identified was an elimination of the easternmost courts to allow space for a volleyball court. That would have reduced the park’s four courts to two. Taylor said that if the town eliminated half of its tennis courts however there were likely to be complaints.

Town Administrator Laura Allen pointed out that the tennis court replacement was being funded primarily with a $215,000 grant.

“If you choose to do something else with the two tennis courts we’re discussing, we’re not sure what the granting agency will do,” she said. “There is some risk to the grant if you choose to repurpose those two courts into a volleyball court.”

Taylor said that the area would be suitable for a volleyball court with some drainage improvements, such as a catch basin and swales, but that those improvements would be implemented regardless of the use selected for the space.

Councilman Zack Tyndall asked how much the tennis courts were typically used. Town staff said there had been no formal count but that calls regarding the courts’ poor condition had been frequent in recent years.

Councilman Dean Burrell said he wanted to be sure that if the council approved the additional expense the problem would be addressed.

Taylor replied that he and a geotechnical engineer had reviewed the proposal.

“I’m comfortable with the numbers, that it’s going to solve the problem,” he said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the $12,650 change order to level the tennis courts.

“I think it makes the most sense,” Councilman Troy Purnell said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.