After a heated and sometimes contentious city council meeting Tuesday evening, Upper Arlington leaders decided to begin Phase One of the controversial "Masterplan" to renovate Northam Park: by a 4-3 vote, members hoped to hang nets on the hoops by the end of the fiscal year 2017. The five hoops will require 5 new nets, a ladder, and labor to install. Council members insist the project can be brought in under $75 but local conservative bloggers are convinced the project could exceed $100 in tax payer money, including benefits for the city worker who hangs the nets.
"Just another example of big government wasting tax-payer money. The private sector could hang these nets for 1/3 the cost. That's assuming we even need them. My grandaddy didn't need no fancy nets, so I don't know why these kids need them now. He used to shoot a rotten tomato through a hollowed-out gunny bucket on a court of broken glass and rusty nails. And that was BEFORE the 3-point shot, mind you. The kids today are spoiled and soft," posted spokesman Zeb Coulter on his Facebook page, "Let's Hang Together Before We Hang Those Nets."
Local coffee shop owner and UA parent Colin Gawel disagreed: "The way I see it, we have already built the courts and installed the baskets. It seems logical to finish the job by hanging the nets. This way kids who go to the library could walk over and play basketball too. Especially since the pool cracked in half and was closed last year. You know what, if money is the issue I'd be happy to buy the nets if a city employee would hang them. You fly, I'll buy. It's the American way."
"Sounds like socialism to me," countered Coulter. "I demand that the entire UA City Council be recalled and thrown out of office. At the very least, I would like to review a full recording of the meeting."
When informed that UA Council meetings aren't taped due to lack of anything interesting ever happening, Coulter was incensed. "There you go, what are they afraid of? What special interest is behind this so-called Masterplan?"
Rumors have been surfacing that the powerful Northam Park tennis lobby had been holding up Phase One for years, concerned that kids actually playing in the park would be noisy and a distraction to their matches. They feel that hanging nets would negate all the progress they made ridding the park of the pool in 2015. "It was so quiet last summer with no splashing or bouncing balls that I could finally concentrate on my serve," said Dublin resident Sally Suth, who travels to UA every other Thursday to play doubles tennis and have a late lunch at La Chatelaine.
In an article printed last November, the UA Council promised to move slower on renovations in Northam Park. (Click here to read the story) Gawel found the headline curious. "I thought, what's slower than doing nothing?" Previous headlines show Gawel has a point: "Tremont Pool Needs Repairs" (5/17/13); "Tremont Pool Really Needs Repairs" (5/13/14); "Tremont Pool Broken and Closed Forever" (5/23/15).
Either way, plans remain in place to finally hang nets on the basketball hoops at Northam Park in the next 18 months. Councilman Stan Brody added, "They have nets at Target for $13.45 but we aren't exactly sure how to string them through the hoop. We have hired a consulting firm with the help of King Thompson to examine the project and help with their expertise in net hanging." City records show that the consulting fee will be $78,321.
Jeff Hassler covers local politics for Pencilstorm.com