Board told costs for turf would be at least $356,000
|Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor|
April 6, 2004 -- Sulphur Springs Independent School District administrators presented information to school board trustees Monday night on several proposals for surface renovations at Gerald Prim Stadium.
The information included five bids ranging from $356,000 to $595,000 from companies outlining options for artificial turf.
The lowest bid of $356,280, submitted by Vibra-Whirl Ltd. of Panhandle, includes the cost of implementing inlaid markings for football and soccer, along with the expense of installing the synthetic turf fields. The company stated that if allowed to begin work on May 1, they could easily complete the project by Aug. 15.
Sulphur Springs Independent School District Superintendent Mark Henry asked the school board to allow administrators to meet with the architects submitting the bids and narrow the field to three applicants for the board to interview during a special meeting toward the end of the month.
The proposed surface renovation would be paid by utilizing funds from athletic gate receipts designated for athletic improvements, which are estimated to be approximately $23,000 annually for 10 years. Also factored in would be $1,250 annually contributed by band and football booster clubs, as well as either $10,128 from supply and materials funds saved each year through the project, or that amount contributed by outside sources.
By utilizing the athletic gate receipts no tax dollars would have to be used to renovate the field, according to projected data supplied by school administrators, but at least one board member didn't see it that way.
"I view gate receipts as funds coming into the district," said Norman Sanders, vice president of the school board. "Once it comes into the district, I don't think I can separate it as some gate receipts and some from taxes. I see it all as funds to support our district."
Administrators also presented information about re-crowning the field and correcting drainage and re-sodding the field instead of using artificial turf. Those renovations would cost about $69,000, which could be paid from the gate receipts at a rate of $23,000 over three years.
"If we spent the $70,000 to resurface and re-sod the field, how much of the cost can we actually eliminate?" board member Gregg Price asked. "We'll still have maintenance costs. If you have the artificial turf, that cost goes away."
"Surely all that cost's not going to go away," Sanders parried. "We're still going to have to clean it. ... All residue has to be cleaned up, things like mucus and blood, scuffs. It has to be scrubbed with soap and water."
SSISD Director of Plant Operations Dale Guest explained that while some schools do clean the field frequently, others primarily utilize the sweeper included in the cost to "come in a couple of times a year and sweep during football season."
Guest also explained upon question by Sanders that the large range between bids is due largely to the type of drainage system, and the extent of upgrades proposed by each turf company.
School trustees asked Henry to contact businesses and industries in the community to see if any would be willing to support the measure financially.
"You'd have to find a lot of support to go with it," SSISD board member Judy Gillem said.
Board Secretary Eddie Northcutt indicated that the people who have talked to him over the last month about the proposed stadium surface project have indicated they would be in favor of the artificial turf.
Sanders, however, said that he had received numerous calls from citizens expressing concern that other needs, such as classroom space to accommodate the increased enrollments and other athletic needs such as a new track, and teacher morale, wouldn't be met. Sanders also expressed concern that the figures presented about injuries on artificial turf were not as reliable as those on grass turf, as the proposed type of turf has only been used for a fraction of the time as grass turf.
The need in the near future for a bond election for a new facility to accommodate the increased enrollment was also a big issue for some board members.
"I think this is a bond killer," Sanders said.
"To Dr. Henry and Mr. Guest I say there is a lot put down in this booklet y'all gave us," board member Jacquelyn Brice said of the packet of information presented to the board regarding stadium renovations. "With the bid I am pleasantly surprised. However, I've always heard the lowest bid is not always the best bid."
Brice proposed telephone contacts and visits be made throughout the community to gauge support of a turfing project.
Board President Tony Cook, near the conclusion of the discussion about stadium renovations, suggested utilizing more than half of the gate receipts that go to the athletic department to fund the project.
"I see enough funding for it to cash flow itself without going out with tax money or money from businesses," Cook said. "I say give football its due. ... We've done the other projects and fields and football pays for it, paid for it by the gate receipts. When people ask, 'How much of my tax money pays for this?' I want to say gate receipts bring in $133,000 a year. None of that comes from taxes. Football pays for it all. I'm saying take $50,000 from gate receipts instead of $23,000, take 35 percent of [the 50 percent that goes to the athletics fund] for 10 years. That's $350,000. Where has that slighted anyone? ... Anyone who does not want to support this, don't buy season tickets, purchase gate tickets."
Henry reminded that while football does bring in the majority of gate receipts, the board voted to split that funding with non-revenue sports so that all programs receive equal opportunities. He also pointed out that gate receipts, due to factors such as weather and how well the team does each year, vary annually and may not be as much next year or throughout the next 10 years to support a higher payment.