Thirty-three tennis players — including namesake Bill Thornton — showed up at the Thornton Recreation Center forum to protest plans to shut off the court lights at Etowah and Alto parks except for league play.
An hour or so of discussion produced several cost-saving alternatives officials said looked promising.
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“Thank you for the ideas, for the good turnout and for leaving your pitchforks at home,” Lee said as the session ended.
RFPRA Executive Director Richard Garland said all the suggestions would be presented to committees this week. The full board will make the final decisions at its April 16 meeting.
But several netted easy approval and could be implemented even sooner:
Those are the nights casual players use the courts, and forum attendees said those games typically wrap up well before 10 p.m.
Garland estimated cutting three hours a week of lighting could save about $2,000 annually.
“We should be able to get them marked by the end of next week,” Garland promised.
Tennis Director Mark Dodd suggested sending occasional emails to Coosa Valley Tennis Association members, asking them to conserve energy. But player Lisa Frazier said the message should be tougher.
“It should say, ‘if you don’t want our lights turned out, turn them off,’” she said. “If you had said this meeting was about saving energy, nobody would have come. But you said you were turning off the lights and it brought everyone out.”
The RFPRA is absorbing about $400,000 in funding cuts this year, and Garland said the board’s focus each month is on how to trim expenses and generate new revenue.
“I know it almost seems hilarious for us to be looking at this type of savings. … but we’re operating on a 2008 funding level and we’ve added facilities since then,” RFPRA vice chairman David Mathis said. “When we look at cost-savings, we’re looking at everything.”
Some of the other suggestions will take a little research, Garland said, while other are impractical.
Automatic security lights at the Etowah Park skate center and Alto Park parking lot will likely be installed, after attendees said the court lights are sometimes left on so players can find their way to their cars.
Having Parker Senior Center personnel or baseball coordinators shut off the lights if no one is on the courts is another good idea, Garland said, but expecting Rome or Floyd County patrol officers to monitor the lights is not.
“They’re in the same boat as every other government agency,” he said. “They don’t have the staff or the cars to guarantee they’ll be somewhere at a particular time.”
Motion-sensor light systems, coin-operated timers and court attendants are among the suggestions Garland said may cost more than the associated savings.