SOUTH FORSYTH — The dispute between a tennis company and Forsyth County players has been resolved, but probably not how most people thought.
At the end of the year, Tennessee-based Annacone Tennis Management will end its services at Fowler Park, and all memberships for next year will be refunded.
Donna Kukarola, Forsyth’s procurement director, shared the news Thursday night with the county commission during its meeting. She said she had received a letter from Annacone, which had held the contract since Aug. 1, 2013, that the deal will expire Dec. 31.
The arrangement between the company and the county has been somewhat controversial, as some residents felt they shouldn’t have to pay to use courts built with their tax dollars.
“The concern, of course, that many of us who use the park have is that we felt like we had paid for this park, and we were really being extorted to pay again to use something,” Everely Lawrence said. “My comment would be that we want our tennis center back, we want to be treated like all the other tennis centers.”
Conversely, other residents felt as if they were getting a higher quality of tennis at the park and were open to a new company to take over tennis at Fowler Park.
“I was never opposed to this public-private partnership,” Dee Greenwood said. “It’s certainly not unprecedented and I enjoyed the services that Annacone provided prior to this change in management that occurred in September.
“What I objected to … was the heavy-handed approach that they took with the raising of the fees.”
Greenwood added that she isn’t opposed to another public-private sponsorship. “I believe the fact that Forsyth County raked in $35,000 over the last year with this partnership was great.”
Commissioner Jim Boff said the partnership was beneficial to the county because it brought in needed revenue.
“Until very recently we actually had libraries on shortened hours due to financial things, so maybe this’ll be helpful,” Boff said. “I do think this became a contentious issue. It is the only park that we have that runs this way.
“There were real things that we were struggling with even if we did not come up with a satisfactory solution.”
Boff also made another point.
“Tax dollars for building something is one thing, but that doesn’t mean that they can continue to be operated,” he said. “For example, schools have tennis courts, schools have fields, etc. You can’t use those at all, even though your taxes probably paid for that.”
Jim Pryor, the county’s parks and recreation director, said he was open to either another partnership or operating like the other county courts by generating money through tournaments, independent contractors and court reservations.