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North Hagerstown stadium track does not 'meet specifications'

June 09, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - More than 19 months since the first football game was played at Mike Callas Stadium, the track that circles the field has yet to be used.

Washington County Board of Education members say progress is being made but are not releasing details about problems with the track at North Hagerstown High School.

Board Member William H. Staley said the track does not "meet the specifications that were originally planned."

Board Vice President Donna Brightman said students have not used the track at Mike Callas Stadium, and that it is "not in a condition for use."

"The state of the track is not in a finished condition and certainly could not be used," Brightman said.

The total cost of Mike Callas Stadium, including the track, was about $4 million. Almost $1.6 million of the money for the stadium and track is from government sources.

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Callas Contractors Inc. in Hagerstown was the general contractor for the project. Bushey Feight Morin Architects, based in Hagerstown, designed the stadium and track, according to documents.

Curtis Graff, the head outdoor track coach at North Hagerstown High School, said the final surface has not been put down on the track.

"When you build a track like that, you put in gravel, stone and then you pour a base that's somewhat like metakaolin," Graff said in an interview Sunday. "And then you put on a final top coat, or layer. Until that's on, the track's not finished."

Graff has been the track coach at North Hagerstown High for about three years but coached at Williamsport High for 35 years before that. He said there have been three track seasons at North Hagerstown since the first football game was held at Mike Callas Stadium.

"From what I understand, kids went down and tried to run on the track, and there may be a problem with it," Staley said.

Staley was not a member of the board when original discussions about the stadium were held and said he knows little about the situation.

Graff said there is potential for injury if students run on the unfinished track.

"You could run on it, but when you run on something that is as hard as that, there are injuries related to stress," he said.

Graff said that repetitive pounding, resulting from running, without the final layer on the track could be harmful.

"We have an incomplete project, there's no doubt about it," said board member Paul W. Bailey during a public meeting last week.

He said he has heard from hundreds of people concerned about the incomplete track.

John Williamson, a member of the committee that worked to fund the stadium and the track, said the project is "not complete," and the committee is wondering why. He also questioned whether the board was changing designs for the track and said the committee should be involved in those decisions.

"We have to be directly involved with you," Williamson told the board last week during a public meeting.

Mike Spinnler, a member of the stadium committee who did specific fundraising for the track, said Thursday that he cannot comment on problems with the track.

"I can't comment on it because of where they are in the solution-finding process," he said. "We've been advised that we can't comment on it right now. We're kind of bound to silence at this point."

Spinnler would not say who advised him not to speak out on the issue.

Brightman said the board is similarly restrained in what information members can release about the track. Because of the contracts involved, Brightman said discussions about the track will likely take place in meetings that are closed to the public.

When asked if the board would be changing designs for the track, Brightman said, "I really can't go into that."

She said the Washington County Public Schools facilities department has managed the project, and kept the board members informed on issues concerning the stadium and the track.

"Staff is working on getting it fixed," board member Bernadette M. Wagner said of the track problems.

Board Member Ruth Anne Callaham said the board is focused on resolving the problem and hopes North Hagerstown High School students are able to use the track by the start of the new school year.

Graff said last week that the track was surveyed and called that a "step in the right direction."

Bailey said during a meeting last week that North Hagerstown High runners have a disadvantage without the completed track. He said students who are unable to compete on their home track must go elsewhere and are missing classes to travel to other school tracks.

"We're on the road all the time as far as competition goes," Graff said. "We practice on the old track surface. We practice on the grass."

He said he hopes the track is finished by next season.

"I think all of us are well focused on a resolution that will be the best thing for children and will be as quick as possible," Callaham said.

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