A $320,000 project to replace the tennis courts at Staples High School faces Representative Town Meeting action Tuesday.

The six asphalt courts were constructed in 1986 and have reached the end of their life, said Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy. "They've been repaired routinely over that period of time, and it's time to replace them," McCarthy said. "At some point the cracks become trip hazards for the players, so it's a safety issue. The level of play is compromised and you don't get a fair bounce and that sort of thing."

The Board of Finance last week unanimously approved the project, which is co-sponsored by the Board of Education. Funding would be split equally with parks and recreation.

"I agree that this is absolutely necessary," Board of Finance member Tom Lasersohn said during the finance meeting. "I've gone by those courts and some of them look like war zones. It's not safe and everybody in town uses it, the kids use it, and somebody's going to get hurt."

The courts have received routine maintenance and patching, McCarthy said. Asphalt courts in the Northeast typically last 20 to 25 years, so the Staples courts have held up well in comparison, he said.

"This is a pretty good run. These are subject to the same freeze-thaw that roads or your driveway at home suffer. But in this case it is an athletic surface and needs to be in premium condition, and they are no longer in premium condition," he said.

The town looked into the possibility of replacing the asphalt courts at Staples with the Har-Tru clay surface in place at nine tennis courts at Longshore Club Park. But McCarthy said those courts, while popular with residents, are more expensive to maintain. Additionally, the courts at Staples need to be the same surface as other courts used interscholastically.

If the project is approved by the RTM, work on the courts is scheduled to begin around July 1 and would be completed by the end of the summer.

Because of the long-term viability of the courts, funding for the project might be bonded by the town.

The RTM session starts at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Town Hall auditorium.