Lights are on, but no one's playing

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by David Alan, 13News

WVEC.com

Posted on July 8, 2010 at 2:50 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 17 at 2:11 PM

VIRGINIA BEACH -- Tough times are ahead in Virginia Beach. That's the word at city hall where officials say they'll have to roll up their sleeves to find the money to close an estimated $100-million budget gap.

Layoffs and furloughs are possible; so are new fees for garbage collection.

Yet, we had no trouble finding empty tennis courts lighted on some of the coldest nights of the year with taxpayers footing the power bill.

"Wow, a waste of money for that, right," was Antonio Britt's reaction to news.

Fred Harrison, another Virginia Beach resident, put it this way -- "Kind of seems senseless to me."

The city says in an effort to save energy, it keeps just a handful of outdoor courts lighted in the winter months, that they're on timers set to come on at 5:00 p.m. and shut off at 10:00 p.m., whether anyone’s using the courts or not.

"First of all, I'm glad you brought this to our attention," said Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms.

Sessoms was quick to point out some people do play tennis in the winter and making the courts available are an important part of maintaining the quality of life in Virginia Beach. 

In bad weather when no one is using them, even snow covered ball fields had the lights on.

"There's no reason the lights should be on and snow or rain coming down and people not using them. We have to figure out a way to fix it," Sessoms added.

The fix comes at a hefty price. The city hopes to buy energy-saving technology this summer that will allow them to turn off the lights in bad weather with a cell phone or a computer. The cost for 39 sites is around $300,000.

The city doesn't know how much it costs to light the tennis courts now because they aren't individually metered.

"I think it's a waste of money they need to re-evaluate," Ashley Frame told us.

On tennis courts lighted at a handful of schools, the money comes from the school budget.

Councilman Bill De Step believes there is less expense technology than what the city of considering and if there is a way to save money, the city needs to move on it now.

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