Board seeks solution to ball fields

By PAT BROWN,

The Simpson County School District is discussing building new baseball and softball fields in Mendenhall following complaints from parents about playing conditions at their current fields.

Jeffery Walker, who is heading the ballfield project for the school district, presented a proposal with rough figures to give the school board an idea of what it may cost to build new fields for Mendenhall.  Currently the district is paying the city $8,000 a year for use of the city facility.  They have a similar agreement with Magee, where they were paying $10,000 a year for use of the new field at Magee’s sportsplex. 

Recent discussion has indicated that the payment to the City of Magee is about to be continued.  District Superintendent Greg Paes said the agreement with Magee was for ten years because of construction cost of the field. 

  The school board  discussed whether the district could make permanent improvements to the city field at Mendenhall to accommodate school games, but the district cannot legally spend money improving property they don’t own. 

The City of Mendenhall had been asked for help, and according to Walker,  Mendenhall Mayor Todd Booth is amendable to helping but stated that the city did not have the money to make the needed repairs to the field.

In addition to flooding, which caused the fields to be unusable for a month,  officials have told the administration that there is not enough lighting. If that is not true, they will not allow any more night games. 

Walker’s rough estimates showed that construction of one baseball field and one softball field would cost approximately $750,000.  The figures were on the high side, he said, but he asked that they be bid that way. 

The plan would be for the district to subcontract the work and avoid costs associated with subcontracting the project to others.  The plan is to move the county school bus barn from its present location adjacent to the Mendenhall campus and relocate the it to the Achievement Center in Magee. 

The district is considering having a facilities use plan done for the district by the firm of Bailey Program Management.  Part of the purpose of the study is to determine the future use of the existing physical plant.

The board discussed how building new fields may fit into that master plan for the district. 

The board also discussed whether it would be possible for Mendenhall teams to use the Magee complex until a solution could be determined. 

The newspaper contacted Mayor Dale Berry of Magee, who said he was sure the city would be willing to work with Mendenhall to help address the problem.  Berry said the district would have to address games scheduled for the same time at Magee and Mendenhall school, but that a schedule could be worked out.

The board voted to take bids on the project to determine what the real costs may be so they could have better information before making a decision.   Board member Stan Bulger voted against the action based on the fact that he was not sure how this action would affect the long range facilities use plan which the district is considering.