Olcott: Plan for sports facilities needed now
Wood BOE president suggests bond for November ballot
PARKERSBURG — Wood County Board of Education President Rick Olcott is asking officials and community members to consider the future of Wood County Schools’ sports facilities.
Olcott presented an overview of athletic facility issues at the board’s June 23 meeting, saying the board has a “narrow window of opportunity” to help shape the future of the community and its athletic facilities.
Olcott said community members for years have expressed concerns over the condition of the district’s sports facilities. Funding for those facilities is not provided through the state, but the properties are still the financial responsibility of the school system and the board, he said.
“I get approached about them frequently, and they are valid concerns,” he said.
The board also is in a unique “dual role,” Olcott said, as Wood County does not have any large venues for sports or community events other than the high schools.
“It’s really very unique. We’re not like a lot of those cities,” he said. “We just don’t have those facilities. And we take heat for it.”
Olcott said the district’s most recent bond call, which has helped in the building of a new elementary school in Williamstown, expansion of Williamstown High school, renovation and expansion of the Wood County Technical Center in south Parkersburg, and roof replacements throughout the district, did not include any money for athletic facilities. Neither did the district’s 2004 facilities bond. Olcott said he believes a new bond call could be used specifically to address those needs.
Among those needs:
* New bleachers and turf at Williamstown High School stadium.
* Finishing home side bleachers at Erickson All-Sports Facility, as well as new turf and a paved parking lot.
* Demolishing and replacing the visitor side bleachers at Parkersburg High School Stadium Field.
* Installation of heating and air conditioning systems at the PHS Fieldhouse and at Parkersburg South High School’s Rod Oldham Athletic Facility.
* Health department compliant concession stands at both PHS and South athletic facilities.
“A whole bunch of things I call ‘festering concerns’ for all three high schools,” Olcott said. “Some of them may become safety concerns in the not too distant future.”
The district’s 2004 bond expired at the end of June. Olcott said the tax savings on a $145,000 home would be about $55 a year.
The district’s new 10-year comprehensive educational facilities plan, or CEFP, is expected to be completed within the next few months and will guide the district in school consolidations and new construction through 2030. That plan will include construction of three new elementary schools in north and south Parkersburg and Vienna.
Olcott estimates the cost of the district’s athletic facility needs to be about $7 million. Combined with construction of one new school the total would be about $22 million. A bond of that size would be only half the cost to taxpayers of the expired bond, so property taxes would still decrease in 2021, he said.
The idea wouldn’t give the school system much time, as ballots for the November General Election will be finalized and printed within the next two months, he said. Officials already are expecting high voter turnout in November due to many high-profile elections. Olcott also said there would be no cost to the school system for running a bond call during a general election, but on an off year such a vote would cost the school system about $100,000
Not all board members agreed, though. Ron Tice said he would not be in favor of another bond call due to the financial uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for area families. Businesses throughout the state and nation were forced to close to help slow and stop spread of the virus, and while some businesses and jobs have returned, some have not.
Tice also said in 2018 the school board approved a plan for nearly $2 million in athletic facility upgrades and replacements, including new turf at Stadium Field, resurfacing tennis courts and completion of bathrooms at Erickson
“The previous board reallocated a bunch of money to get the athletics up to par, and so we’re still in good shape,” he said. “The things we’re going to be asking people for, they’re going to be wants, not really needs.”
The board made no decision at the meeting, but Olcott encouraged members to begin asking the community and various stakeholders for input. If the board decides to run a bond issue, everything would have to be submitted to the county by the end of August in order to be on the November ballot.
“We’ve got to at least lay it out there and get the community to give us some feedback,” Olcott said.
Contact Michael Erb at email@example.com.