Wood County BOE wants five-year repayment on Stadium Field

PARKERSBURG – The Wood County Board of Education will draft a repayment plan for $455,000 paid by the board toward renovations at Parkersburg High School’s Stadium Field.

The plan will call for the school and booster groups to pay back $100,000 a year to the school board until the money has been replaced.

The school board has agreed to pay $455,000 for work completed on the home-side bleachers at Stadium Field. Board members say the debt should belong to the Parkersburg High Stadium Field Renovation Committee, which board members say failed to deliver on $400,000 in promised funding for the project and increased the cost of the project to more than $2 million with added items and an accelerated timeline.

The board Tuesday discussed a $1 surcharge on Stadium Field ticket sales for the 2014-15 school year to help pay off the construction project debt, but pulled the item when it came up for a vote. Board members unanimously voiced concerns over the length of time it would take to pay back the board, saying they instead want booster groups and the school to pay back the money within five years or less.

The surcharge plan was submitted Tuesday by Parkersburg High School and the PHS Athletic Department to add the surcharge to ticket sales for events at Stadium Field and in the PHS Fieldhouse. That surcharge would also apply to ticket sales for Wood County Rec and middle school athletic events held at PHS, which normally result in no revenue for the school.

Superintendent Pat Law said officials conservatively estimate school events would bring in more than $16,000 each year from the surcharge and non-PHS athletic events would result in an additional $9,000, generating about $25,000 a year for the school board.

Board members said the estimates were too conservative, and placed the amount at upwards of $45,000-$50,000 a year.

Even so, that steady trickle of dollars would result in the debt being paid off in 10 years or more, Law said, with the possibility it could take upwards of 18 years to erase the debt from the school system’s books.

No members of the stadium committee or parent booster organization attended Tuesday’s meeting. Principal Pam Goots represented PHS and answered board questions about the surcharge plan, but reiterated the stadium committee’s priority remained paying back a $200,000 loan owed to eight area banks.

Board member Tad Wilson said he believed repaying the school board should be the committee’s top priority.

“I’m not sure I agree the banks should be a priority over the Wood County Board of Education,” he said. “The banks are owed $200,000. The board is owed $455,000. I’m not sure the banks should be a priority.”

Goots said the committee believed some of the work done at the stadium was not part of the actual stadium project, but rather maintenance work ordered by the school system. As such it should not be part of what the board is asking the committee to pay, she said.

Board President Tim Yeater said he believed that was a moot point.

“We’ve already made the decision we are going to get the money back,” Yeater said. “This is not a negotiation.”

Board member John Marlow said he believed it was more important to give the groups a timeline for repayment rather than trying to ask for a percentage of money. Board member Lawrence Hasbargen called for the goal of $100,000 a year “to pay this thing off in four or five years.”

The school board has placed a freeze on work at the stadium until the debt is paid. The stadium’s visitor-side bleachers remain closed and were to be the next phase of the project.

“You can’t get the other side finished until we pay this debt,” Law said.

Yeater said Tuesday he feels discussions on Stadium Field, which dominated the school board’s agendas for part of 2013 and all of 2014 so far, need to end.

“We need to move on,” he said. “There are other things in the county that need to happen. This doesn’t need to be a weekly food-for-thought conversation.”

In other business, the board tabled a vote on the suspension of an employee without pay. The move followed a half-hour executive session and board members said the recommendation will be brought back for a vote at the board’s next meeting. The name of the employee was not released, but the period of the suspension was for Feb. 14-20, retroactively changing from with pay to without pay.