OVA election recount; new pickleball courts may be doomed
On Monday, April 3, construction workers broke ground on a project to build new pickleball courts near the Berger Center in Oakmont. Supporters of the project came out with balloons and signs, while opponents staged a protest. Construction was halted on Tuesday, April 4. Photo by Sarah C. Phelps.
After what has been an unusually volatile, month-long election for four open seats on the seven-member Oakmont Village Association (OVA) Board of Directors, an election recount has been requested and scheduled for April 17. The recount will be held at the West Recreation Center at 9 a.m. Residents are being notified by mail. OVA election rules allow requests for a recount to be filed within five days after votes are counted.
At the heart of the election has been a battle over whether or not the OVA should spend what some see as excessive funds to build new pickleball courts near the Oakmont Berger Center. Although seemingly trivial to those outside Oakmont, the divisive pickleball project is also a symbol of the growing void between retired residents who live on fixed incomes and are concerned about dues increases and those who believe Oakmont should offer the amenities of a modern active adult community.
The issue came to a head on Monday, April 3, when OVA’s contractor, Siri Paving and Grading, began construction on the new pickleball courts amid protests by opponents of the project and cheers from those in support of it. Critics questioned the timing of the ground breaking, which fell on the last day of the heated election. Then-board president Andie Altman said the ink on the construction contract had been dry for months and the window between wet weather was small. It appears that after a four-year process to get the project off the ground, the new board majority, which ran on a platform that included scratching the pickleball project, will likely shut it down.
Eight candidates were vying for four open seats on the OVA Board. The votes were counted on April 4, with the race for the fourth open spot particularly close. Top vote-getters on April 4 were Ken Heyman (960 votes), Carolyn Bettencourt (953 votes), and Greg Goodwin (937 votes). However, Al Medeiros received just six votes less (931 votes). Medeiros ran on the slate opposing Heyman, Bettencourt and Goodwin, which included current OVA Board member Frank Batchelor (re-elected with 955 votes). Candidate Stephanie Curry got 925 votes, Bill Lucker 845, and Wayne Van Bockern 700. The Oakmont News reported that the vote total of 1,897 was a record-breaker, a 31 percent increase over the 1,450 votes cast in the 2016 election, which was a record that year.
The newly elected candidates will serve with current OVA Board members Andie Altman, Ellen Leznik and Gloria Young.
Heyman, Goodwin and Bettencourt joined fellow pickleball project detractor Leznik at the head table during an afternoon board meeting on April 4. Leznik was elected as the new board president by a 4-2 vote, with former board president Altman and Batchelor voting no. Heyman was elected vice president on a 5-1 vote with Altman voting no. Bettencourt was elected secretary.
After the meeting, Leznik and Heyman met with OVA Manager Cassie Turner and put the construction on hold. The halting of the work does not constitute a termination of the contract, which will require a vote of the board. The new board will take up the issue of the pickleball project at its April 18 meeting.
Financial ramifications of breaking the construction contract and undoing the work already done at the site are currently unknown.
Members of the new board majority have opposed the project as an unnecessary use of OVA funds and instead favor converting some of Oakmont’s tennis courts to pickleball courts.
Sarah Phelps is an editor, staff writer, and native Kenwoodian.