Stadium Field report due soon

PARKERSBURG – A state audit of a more than $3 million construction project at Parkersburg High School Stadium Field will be released to the public this week, representatives of Wood County Schools said Tuesday.

Mike Fling, assistant superintendent of school services, said the state auditor is sending a final copy of the report to officials this week and that report will be made public when it arrives.

Fling said Prosecuting Attorney Jason Wharton, who represents the Board of Education in legal matters, has been in contact with the auditor’s office concerning a delay in the release of the report. Fling said officials have not been told why there was a delay, but that the final report would be arriving soon.

“Mr. Wharton has been in contact with the auditor’s office and getting a timeline of when the official report will be here,” Fling said. “He was assured it would be sent out either Friday or Monday. We haven’t received it yet, but it should be here very soon.”

The board pledged $700,000 last year toward a $1.55 million renovation at the stadium. Board members have said that was based on the Parkersburg High School Stadium Renovation Committee, a subgroup of the PHS Big Red Boosters, promising $600,000 plus additional fundraisers.

But costs ballooned on the project to more than $2 million, which officials attributed to additions to the project by committee members and efforts to get the stadium reopened during last year’s high school football season. And the committee drew only a third of the $600,000 loan, with bank officials withholding the rest due to the rising costs and questions over the committee’s ability to repay it.

The school board in February called for an audit of the project after final costs reached more than $3 million and the board was asked to cover $445,000 in unpaid bills for work completed.

District officials had an exit interview with the state’s education auditor June 9 and were able to view a draft report. Fling declined to comment on the findings in the draft report, but said district officials did ask for some corrections and clarifications to be made in the document.

Fling said when the report arrives, officials will fulfill a Freedom of Information Act request from attorney Pat McFarland who has been representing a group of local businessmen who gave money to the stadium fund.

“We do have an open Freedom of Information request that we have to answer,” Fling said.

McFarland on Tuesday said he was eager to see the report and hoped it marked an end of the seemingly endless discussion of the project that took up much of the school board’s attention in late 2013 and early 2014.

“We’re just looking forward to receiving (the audit report) and reviewing it and hopefully putting everything behind us so we can move forward and do good and better things in the future,” McFarland said. “I think things were done in a way that soured the atmosphere (around the project), and I think it’s important that we move on.”

Fling said officials also are looking forward to seeing the findings in the audit report.

“It should be something that we can take this information, apply it and learn from it,” he said. “That is what we are looking foward to.”

The stadium’s visitor side bleachers remain closed to the public with no discussion of how or when they might be repaired or replaced. The school board has asked the stadium committee to repay more than $400,000 to the school system, but so far no committee payment plan has been discussed or put into place.