CARTHAGE, Mo. — Pickleball players, rejoice. Two new courts in Carthage are likely in your future.

The two courts are included in the proposed list of capital projects to be completed in the city's 2019-2020 fiscal year, which begins on July 1 and runs through June 30, 2020. The budget ways and means committee this week reviewed the proposed five-year Capital Improvements Plan, one of the first steps in creating next year's budget.

The parks department has already painted lines on an existing tennis court in Griggs Park, but the two in the capital projects plan would be dedicated pickleball courts, which are smaller than tennis courts.

Parks Director Alan Bull said there is no doubt about a demand for pickleball in Carthage, which prompted painting lines on the Griggs Park tennis court.

"This is the one thing I get asked more about than anything," Bull said. "It's really popular."

Bull said he's applying for a grant to fund the court construction, and the cost listed in the Capital Improvements Plan is just under $15,000. If the grant is awarded, the project would be removed from the plan. Bull said a location hasn't yet been decided for the two courts.

The projects in the five-year plan are at this point just proposals, and City Administrator Tom Short said the final list for the 2020 budget may be slightly different from what was presented Monday night. Projects in the 2020 fiscal year total $7.25 million, while the overall five-year plan totals $68.2 million.

"During the budget process, depending on the level of funding, some of these will make it across and some won't," Short said.

Other proposals

The five-year plan also includes continued work at Memorial Hall. A new parking lot, replacement of the auditorium ceiling, LED lighting and a new stage curtain are all proposed for the 2020 fiscal year. These items, Short said, would help modernize Memorial Hall, which is more than a century old, and also address safety concerns.

"We're not even sure how old the stage curtain is, and it's ripping and in general has a bunch of problems with," Short said. "Several improvements have been made to the hall over the past couple years and it's beginning to look nice again, but the curtain makes the rest of the hall look dated."

Councilman Juan Topete asked if the city was doing anything to book more events at the hall, which he said is seldom used during the week.

"What have we been doing to try and make some revenue to justify the costs that we're doing to beautify this building that's just going to sit there most of the time?" Topete said. "Even if we can rent it out for an hour or two, it's better than not renting it out at all."

All of the proposed construction at Memorial Hall totals about $150,000 in 2020, with a renovation totaling $575,000 slated for 2023.

Bridges

A lingering problem for the city will be deteriorating bridges, two of which had to be shut down last month when they were deemed unsafe by the state transportation department. Eight bridges are planned for replacement and one is slated for demolition, though all are projects that have remained in the Capital Improvements Plan for several years.

The estimated cost to replace the eight bridges is $13.56 million, and only one bridge is slated for the 2020 fiscal year. Last month the city was forced to close two of the bridges, one on McGregor Street and one on Walnut Street, after they were deemed to be in "critical" condition by the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Five of the bridges are part of a lawsuit the city has filed against Union Pacific Railroad, claiming the company failed to maintain roads and bridges at railroad crossings. The city's view is the roads and bridges became the railroad's responsibility when the city turned over the right of way for those locations and that the company should pay for improvements at more than a dozen crossings and bridges.

As to whether the city can afford the bridge replacements with its current funds, Short said, "discussions will continue as far as options are concerned."

The budget committee will meet again on April 8 and begin drafting the 2020 budget. The full council must approve a budget by June 25.

Reporter

Tyler covers Jasper County, which includes the Carthage City Council, Jasper County Commission and anything in between. Tyler can be reached at twornell@joplinglobe.com or 417.627.7258.