Stadium Field fundraising on hold

PARKERSBURG – The Parkersburg High School Stadium Renovation Committee’s fundraising efforts are on hold while officials determine who is responsible for an outstanding $665,000 bill for work on the stadium.

Committee members met Monday to discuss finances and how to move forward with the stadium project.

Committee President Earl Johnson said the committee’s fundraising efforts are largely on hold after the Wood County Board of Education demanded a stop to work and payments after questions arose about finances and an unpaid $665,000 bill owed to project contractor Grae-Con.

“At this point we are basically on hold until we see what happens with the issues before us,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to say this committee is at a standstill, but our hands are kind of tied at the moment to do a lot of things we would have been planning tonight and at the next few meetings.”

Board President Tim Yeater has called for a special meeting Thursday to publicly discuss the stadium issues.

Ryan Taylor, president of Pickering Associates and project manager on the stadium project, said about $50,000 in work remains to be completed on the project which sought to repair and restore the home-side stadium bleachers.

Taylor and attorney Pat McFarland, who is representing a group of businessmen and donors, disagreed Monday on some of the financial numbers surrounding the project. McFarland estimated the total project will cost more than $2.3 million while Taylor said the actual number is slightly above $2 million.

Both agreed the cost of the project increased from earlier estimates and projections during the last two months of the project. Taylor said a rush to finish the project as well as items being added back into the scope of the project caused the cost to rise.

Johnson asked McFarland whether the project investors intended to file a lawsuit against the board of education, but McFarland said such a discussion before Thursday’s special school board meeting would be premature.

“That has never been discussed,” McFarland said. “We are just waiting to see how things pan out. If the board says Thursday ‘we are going to write a check,’ then there is no issue.”

Committee members said they believe the board of education is the entity financially responsible for the project, but agreed they would be better served in offering the board possible solutions to the problem rather than just handing off the problems.

The committee plans to bring its project numbers to the meeting, as well as offering the board possible ways to pay the debt on the project while also meeting its financial obligation to local banks. The committee has borrowed $200,000 which has been put toward the stadium project.

Johnson said the committee already is making payments on the loan interest.

McFarland warned committee members they could be responsible for paying the loan out of their own pockets if the bank were to lose faith in the group’s ability to raise money. McFarland said documents show the group’s fundraising dollars were considered collateral and the loan is a demand note, meaning it could be made payable in full at the bank’s whim.

Committee member Rex Foster said the committee is comprised of hardworking volunteers who are passionate about the school and its sports program.

“Were weren’t trying to create any problems or put this back on the school board,” he said. “This thing is getting all turned around like we are villains or something. It is sad that this has turned into this kind of a mess for such an incredible project.”

The committee unanimously approved a motion to request an elected school board member attend each of the committee’s meeting. Members said while school board members have been invited since the committee began working on the stadium renovation plan, none have ever attended a committee meeting.

“Perhaps had they been here, some of these problems could have been solved earlier on,” Johnson said.