If Monroe County Supervisor John Hughes had his druthers, the Albia Community School District would be the proud owners of the Monroe County Sports Complex for one dollar or less.
But the Albia Community School Board doesn’t work that quickly. Part of the careful approach to the county’s offer to give the venerable sports complex to the school district was a report given to the school board on Monday by Estes Construction and RDG Architecture firm with eye-popping costs to bring the facility into compliance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements and modern codes.
That same report had costs for needed improvements at the high school/junior high, Lincoln Center and the Mick Technology Center ranging toward $16 million at the high end (see story in next Tuesday’s Monroe County News).
Superintendent Kevin Crall advised the school board that the estimates gave low and high ends of cost estimates and that much of the work suggested by the construction and architectural firms wasn’t immediate in nature. However, the numbers were a cause to pause.
Estes said parking and drives at the complex needed paving with site lighting and storm drainage in parking areas at a cost of between $780,000 and $1.47 million. They said to become ADA compliant, fields, concession and playgrounds needed to be connected by hard surfaces creating accessibility challenges at a cost of $394,000-$704,000. At the high end of that cost would be new ticket booths and fencing around the entire complex.
They said existing tennis and basketball court surfaces are beyond the end of useful life and need replaced at a cost of $180,000 to $645,000. They said the field lighting lacks central controls and multiple fixtures were not in working order. To consolidate controls, repair the scoreboard and replace electrical distribution would cost between $274,00 and $310,000.
The low end of the estimates by Estes and RDG was about $1.63 million. The high end was $3.1 million.
Those supporting the idea of the school accepting the county’s offer of the sports complex (including the hitting and pitching facility) have brought up the cost of all new baseball, softball and tennis facilities that the Davis County school district had to build after the Davis County Fair Board decided they could make more money turning the leased baseball field into parking for the fair. The Davis County district had to pass a $7 million bond issue, about $2 million of that for a single baseball field and softball field.
For the past several years the Albia school district has paid about $4,000 per year to rent the baseball and softball fields along with the tennis court for junior high and high school programs. It has also contributed $5,000 a year for a $250,000 capital improvement campaign launched in 2015 by the Monroe County Sports Complex Board.
In the past decade the sports complex board has installed new Musco lighting on both the high school baseball and softball fields, tiled the baseball field, put up new scoreboards, reworked the dugouts and installed new press boxes at each facility and opened up a new parking area next to the small gravel parking area near the softball field. It also reworked the middle rock field used for many years as a slowpitch field.
Most recently, following a serious dust-up between the hitting and pitching facility volunteers, sports complex board, Monroe County Conservation Board and county board of supervisors, numerous improvements were completed at that facility. The facility has been closed because of management and insurance issues, but will reopen this week behind the leadership of Andy Wuebker (Monroe County Conservation Board Manager) and Mark Carlton.
The school board mostly listened to several community members and Hughes speak about the issue. Hughes said that the sports complex went “belly up” in 2015 and a new board came on to address problems. He said that the county’s new insurance carrier created a number of changes (which also impacted the Lake Miami shooting range which was closed until changes in structure and organization were made). The shooting range was compared to the hitting and pitching facility in terms of insurance liability, except that the shooting range has always had strictly controlled hours of operation whereas the hitting and pitching facility is open virtually 24 hours a day to individuals and teams with entrance codes.
Mike Beard, who coaches a club softball team that has paid $100 per year to rent the softball field and whose daughter is a junior on the Lady Dee softball team, voiced his displeasure with the upkeep of the sports complex and the shutting down of the hitting and pitching facility.
“Can we run it like the community has always run it?” he asked. “I’m unclear about the future uses of the sports complex. All I know is that kids don’t have access to the hitting and pitching facility and I want you to know that it boils down to the kids. The focus has to be for the kids.”
Beard was not aware at the Monday meeting that the hitting and pitching facility was being reopened.
In some discussion between Superintendent Crall and board members, the issue of operating the hitting and pitching facility as it has in the past (volunteers have managed it with unlimited access to the building) was not exactly in the school’s wheel house of controlled access and management. The board agreed that school facilities have been managed successfully with public, non-school use (youth wrestling at the MAC center and tournaments at the high school, Monroe County Sports Federation basketball and football, adult open gyms, club basketball teams renting Lincoln Center and Grant gyms, the open access to the new track and school playgrounds).
In the board’s discussion, three issues needed to be examined. The first was the potential for immediate ADA upgrades should the school accept the sports complex from the county. The second was cost increases from the school’s insurance carrier and the third was how best to handle the hitting and pitching facility.
Board member Linda Hoskins, whose Lady Dee conference championship softball teams played at Washington field and when the Sports Complex first opened, told Hughes that she was still processing the offer. “We really face a public relations problem we don’t take your offer,” she said. “People will be mad is the sports complex does not continue as it has since 1985. On the other hand, we’ve got a long list of building and grounds issues on a five-year plan we’re trying to address.”
Board President Craig Ambrose said that taking a PPEL tax issue before the stakeholders in the district may be a way to address the sports complex issue and other buildings and grounds issues in the district. (Albia currently is one of the few districts in the area that does not fully utilize the PPEL (Physical Plant ? Levy) taxing authority.
Board member Jeff Liston voiced the inevitability of accepting the sports complex as school property.
“Right now I’m just trying to fix this,” said Hughes as that portion of the meeting concluded.