PARKERSBURG - Noting that Parkersburg High's Stadium Field is the only condemned school facility in the county, members of the Wood County Board of Education unanimously approved $700,000 to aid renovations and get the stadium open by the fall.
Close to 200 people - many wearing red in support of the PHS issue - attended Tuesday's meeting as board members considered funding the multi-million dollar renovation project.
Joe Carrico with the PHS Stadium Committee addressed the board to outline its needs.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Parkersburg High School students, from left, Zack Garrison, Rylan Hamilton, Aaron Roberts and Chandler Hamilton lead the applause after the Wood County Board of Education approved funding for repairs to the school's Stadium Field.
"We're here to talk about a grand old lady. Through 90 years she needed a little more TLC," he said. "Tonight, she needs a facelift."
Carrico said the stadium committee wants to fix the home side bleachers in time for soccer and football season. The renovations will cost $1.3 million.
The stadium committee asked the board for permission to begin fundraising, explore the possibility of borrowing up to $400,000, obtain $40,000 in capital improvement funding and use $60,000 from the committee toward the project.
"The elephant in the room is how much we are asking from the board," he said. The committee requested $700,000 from the board.
"We understand it is a financial strain, but it is needed to meet the aggressive schedule," Carrico said.
Carrico said if the committee has a large donor come forward it may come back to discuss naming rights.
The board was unanimous in its vote, 4-0, to approve the funding. Board member Tad Wilson was absent.
Board member Jim Fox said the board had an "obligation" to do this.
Six people spoke Tuesday, all relating to the athletic facility issues. Among those was Parkersburg High football player Chandler Hamilton, who delivered an impassioned plea for the board to provide funds. Hamilton cried several times during his presentation about his desire and need to use the field.
Afterward he received a hug from Fox and a standing ovation from the crowd. Hamilton closed his speech with a rally cry for students in front of board members.
Rick Bush, an alumnus from PHS and supporter of the Parkersburg South Erickson All-Sports facility, also addressed the board. He spoke in support of funding Stadium Field, but asked for funding for Erickson as well.
Bush requested $500,000: $100,000 for the new track around the field and approximately $400,000 for new bleachers at the Rod Oldham Athletic Center.
After listening to school system finance director Connie Roberts overview of the facilities needs and funds, Bush said there was "no reason PHS can't leave with its money and South with its $700,000."
Roberts said the school system is projecting a $4.9 million carryover for the upcoming fiscal year. That money includes the $2.8 million contingency funds as well as $200,000 in money needed for emergency repairs.
Roberts said the school system needs approximately $16 million is roof repairs- just roof repairs. If the money isn't there at least $200,000 is needed for emergency repairs until enough is available to do repairs.
Bush also recommended school officials look at refinancing bonds, noting lower interest rates.
Board president Tim Yeater said after everyone is gone members need to look at the budget.
"The $700K didn't just magically appear," he said.
Wood County Schools Superintendent Pat Law said officials had an additional problem that no one was expecting, referring to PHS. He said the board had a difficult decision.
Board member Lawrence Hasbargen said the system was at a crossroads with regard to repairs. He pointed the finger at the state for its tendency to overlook athletic facilities.
"It is ridiculous to go down that road. The state should be helping us and they don't do it. They kick it back to us," he said.
"We allow someone to build something on our property and we aren't taking care of it, shame on us," Yeater said.
Fox, reading from a typed sheet of paper, made the motion to amend the agenda item to provide $700,000 in funding to the stadium. It was seconded by John Marlow.
Board members made no move on Bush's request. Fox said if Erickson was closed, he would support funding to get it open again.
"We are in this together," he said. "We need to do this as a community."