In hindsight, it is easy to see that members of the Parkersburg High School Stadium Renovation Committee were in over their heads during the recent Stadium Field construction project. Their well-intentioned blundering led to serious cost overruns on the project and a question about who will pay a $450,000 unpaid bill for work completed.
But hindsight would not now be necessary if, last summer, the Wood County Board of Education had shown more foresight. The board should have been in less of a rush to hand out $700,000 to a group of people more adept at holding ice cream socials than being in charge of what turned out to be a $2 million-plus construction project.
In this matter, the BOE showed an amazing lack of indifference to Wood County's taxpayers by putting political opportunism ahead of good decision making.
The question now should not be who is responsible for paying for the mess that has been created. The question must be how to prevent it from happening in the future.
Whether it was intentional or just inexperience with this scope of a project, the stadium committee misled everyone involved - board members, Wood County Schools administrators, and project engineers - on how much money they would contribute to the project. In order to receive the $700,000 from the board, the stadium committee agreed to provide a $600,000 contribution through loans. And according to statements by Wood County Schools Finance Director Connie Roberts, and Pickering Associates President and project lead engineer Ryan Taylor, the stadium committee was asked at several junctures whether it had the money to pay for the ever-increasing costs. The committee members' answer was always the same - yes.
The stadium belongs to the Wood County Board of Education. The board bears ultimate responsibility for the bill. The work at the stadium was done well - and it was done in good faith. The company deserves to be paid for its work. The board should see that it is paid. And while it would be nice for taxpayers if some arrangement could be made where the stadium committee would repay the money in the future, that is not the main concern now.
What also would be nice in the future is for the Wood County Board of Education to become better stewards of taxpayer money - and remember there is more than one high school in the county.