On campus or off?
That was the question at an Enterprise Board of Education work session held July 30.
At the work session, held immediately before the voting meeting, Enterprise City Schools Superintendent Greg Faught addressed the issue of a softball/baseball set to be constructed in Fiscal Year 2020 as part of the school system’s Five Year Capital Plan.
EHS Athletic Director Trent Trawick had presented a plan for the entire high school athletic complex several years ago, Faught said. At that time, construction of a softball/baseball field was estimated to be $2.5 million and that amount was allocated in the capital plan.
With FY 2020 set to begin Oct. 1, current preliminary cost estimates to build a softball/baseball complex have more than doubled, Faught said, adding that he asked the consulting firm “to go back to the drawing board.”
“They got the price to $3.6 million, which is $1.1 million more than we budgeted for,” Faught said, adding that currently the EHS softball and baseball teams are playing at the city recreation department fields. “What if we invested in those (city fields) to fix them up and go in that direction?”
Earlier in the meeting Faught had asked the board to consider installation of synthetic turf on the EHS football field for an estimated cost of almost $1 million. Hearing that despite “back to the drawing board” cuts still came in $1.1 million over the allocated $2.5 million, EBOE member Reid Clark suggested that the $1 million could be realized by forgoing installation of the synthetic turf.
Faught said it would cost about $1 million to upgrade the city fields to the high school athletic association requirements. “I’ll go on record and I’ll say that I would love for (the new ball fields) to be on campus but it’s foolish not to look at every option when you are talking about that much taxpayer dollars to be spent on one item,” Faught said. “That’s the reason I suggested that. I wanted the board to have an option to look at. It may not be a good option but it’s an option to look at and consider as we move forward planning with the project.”
“Safety and security,” are two reasons that Trawick cited for wanting the new ball fields to be built on the EHS campus.
“I think we all agree that something has to happen whether it is on campus or off campus,” said EBOE member Bob Doerer. “What are the other concerns you have taking it off campus?” he asked Trawick. “And if we allotted additional money, could that solve the off campus issue?”
“I actually spoke on this in 2016,” Trawick replied. “Safety is the No. 1 concern.
“I don’t know that it would be feasible to secure that (recreation center) field in,” Trawick said. “The street that we would have to possibly block off or close off is a city street that is used by businesses.
“Also there is no storm shelter. If it’s on the site of the school we can obviously move there,” Trawick said. “Another concern that I had, and still do, is the kids leaving campus every day.
“Also our junior high students are allowed to play on the (high school) teams, so their parents would have to take off work to take them up to the ball field,” he added. “If they were at school, they could ride to school just like they do to basketball and volleyball and track. All of those things are safety concerns.”
Doerer asked Trawick whether having a school bus transport the ball players to and from the recreation department fields would be viable. “It would come out of the coaches’ accounts,” Trawick replied. “It definitely could be done but there is more cost there.”
“On site, (at the high school) it’s easier for our coaches to be involved with it during their planning blocks or after school,” said ECS Facilities Engineer Justin Hope. “And sharing the manpower that you are already using for your other facilities such as custodial and grounds guys across campus versus getting the equipment in a trailer and taking it somewhere else is an advantage.”
ECS Chief Financial Officer Brian Stewart told the board that $5.4 million is allocated for capital projects and that once the current projects are completed, that amount will be $4.5 million. That amount is replenished at a rate of $1.1 million a year from the seven-mil district tax, he said.
“I think the major cost as far as being on campus is going to be site prep,” said EBOE President Danny Whitaker.
“That is my understanding,” Faught said. “The site prep work is going to be expensive because of the way the site is.
“If there is a way to do it on campus I’m all for it but the price came back more than double what we budgeted for and I felt an obligation to come up with a different option, just in case that was something you wanted to explore,” Faught said.
“This is not a voting meeting but from what I am hearing from everybody on the board, it sounds like the idea you would like to probably pursue is more of an on-campus facility,” said Whitaker. “If we don’t do it now when will it be done in the next 10 to 15 years?”
The next voting meeting of the EBOE is Aug. 27 at the schools’ central office on Hutchinson Street. The meeting is open to the public