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Y indoor tennis courts needs Watertown City Council, state approvals

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Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham warned Monday night that the indoor tennis courts proposed for the Fairgrounds Y will need approvals from the Watertown City Council and the state Legislature.

Cyril Mouaikel has been leading a community campaign since last summer to help raise money for indoor tennis courts that would be added to the Fairgrounds Y building, 585 Rand Drive. So far, about half of the $400,000 has been raised for the project.

But, at Monday night’s council meeting, the mayor said the addition needs approval from City Council because the Y sits on city-owned park land. It also needs the state Legislature to pass home-rule legislation, since it deals with improvements to a public park, he said.

Those efforts need to begin soon because it’s a lengthy process to go through, the mayor said.

He wants to make sure that the city is not accused “of holding up” the project if the requests are not made soon.

The mayor also questioned why organizers have not approached the city about the project when they had spoken to Councilmen Joseph M. Butler Jr. and Jeffrey M. Smith.

He suggested the organizers contact City Manager Sharon A. Addison and the Parks and Recreation Department about the project.

The mayor said he had not heard about the project until an article appeared in the Watertown Daily Times last week. Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns also said she knew nothing about the project until then.

In responding to the mayor’s accusation, Mr. Butler said he attended an organizational meeting months ago and that the City Council was invited. He was the only council member to show up, he said.

“I don’t know where you’re coming from,” Mr. Butler said about the mayor’s remarks, adding that he surmised the organizers probably do not know how city government works and were not ignoring anyone.

Mr. Mouaikel, RBC Wealth Management branch director, started his campaign almost immediately after Stebbins Engineering and Manufacturing Co. purchased the Watertown Health & Racquet Club, 431 Eastern Blvd., to turn it into a storage building for construction equipment. He had used the indoor courts there and wants to see indoor courts back in the community.

Mr. Mouaikel, who could not be reached for comment, is just helping to get the financing for the project, but Y officials are involved in the actual planning of it. Y Executive Director Peter W. Schmitt said they have been working with the city’s Parks and Planning departments “to see if it’s a viable project” before approaching City Council about it.

“We appreciate the mayor’s reminder about home-rule legislation, but we’re well aware of it,” he said.

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