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School board split on turf decision for new stadium

May 24, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

The Washington County Board of Education has agreed to meet Friday to vote on a bid for installing turf at Mike Callas Stadium, despite some members' views that a decision is being rushed.

During a sometimes contentious workshop Tuesday, President W. Edward Forrest warned the board was "setting up for some potential problems" by not waiting until its next regularly scheduled meeting to make a decision about turf. Representatives for the committee that has raised about $2.3 million in private pledges toward a stadium at North Hagerstown High School said the board needed to act fast.

"I think it's unreasonable to delay this an hour longer than it needs to be," said Jack Metzner, who last week offered to put $250,000 for naming rights for his business toward a turf field.

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A split board agreed by consensus vote to move the issue to vote at 9 a.m. Friday.

The school system sought bids for both a turf field and a grass field, but vendors returned only bids for a turf field, said Rob Rollins, senior project manager for the facilities department. Rollins said school system staff could prepare the information the board needs in time for Friday's meeting.

"We're leaping ahead to approve a bid we haven't even brought before the board," said Boyd Michael, executive director of secondary education, who will become assistant superintendent for school operations July 1.

The board has not asked the Washington County Commissioners for financing toward a turf field, which would cost about $400,000, Forrest said.

According to school system Chief Legal Counsel Anthony Trotta, the board could accept a bid without funding as long as getting the money was a condition of the contract.

"I can tell you financing will be available for this project. I can't tell you where that's going to come from," said Metzner, president and chief executive officer of Conservit Inc., a scrap metal processing firm.

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan argued for more time, saying members of a stadium committee last week indicated they could hold off on field installation until the board's next regularly scheduled meeting June 6.

Because it is funded through private donations, the stadium project has presented a new experience for school system staff, Morgan said.

"This is our first time doing it, but I want to do it right," Morgan said.

John Williamson, a former chairman of the stadium committee, said the committee believed the board would vote quickly on a bid. Waiting could delay the stadium's completion, which is planned for October.

"We've got people committed to this who contributed money to the project and their kids are going to be seniors this year, and they want to see them play in that stadium," he said.

Board member Bernadette M. Wagner, who asked board members several times for their consensus on meeting this week, said she could not understand the holdup.

"This board is dragging its feet on this particular issue ..." Wagner said.

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