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To keep track of track, you have to be in for long run

August 17, 2008|By TERRY HEADLEE

Since the truth about what really happened with the track at Mike Callas Stadium isn't going to be forthcoming anytime soon, taxpayers might want to take matters into their own hands.

Taxpayers should tell the Washington County Board of Education enough is enough and that no more money should be spent on the track.

This is an easy call.

Why?

Because if you don't speak up soon, you might get stuck paying as much as $750,000 to redo the track at North Hagerstown High School.

The contractor said it can be brought up to high school track standards in less than a week without any additional expense. That would end this drama.

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And since this is a high school-level track at a local high school, that ought to be good enough, right?

Now this is where this fiasco gets interesting.

There's a lot of finger-pointing going on now, but I'll cut to the finish line.

From documents that a Herald-Mail reporter has reviewed, it appears school officials did not sign off on a change order for an alternate plan until July 16, 2007. This alternate plan was supposed to bring the track up to college-level standards by changing its slope.

The problem is that the contractor, Craig Paving Inc., had completed work on the track a year earlier.

Uh-oh.

School officials said that the construction companies "knew" in advance they were bidding on an alternate. But Roger Craig, president of Craig Paving Inc., said he didn't receive the signed alternate plan until after the track was completed.

Where this gets complicated is that local Tri-State-area track enthusiasts lobbied hard for the college-level track and raised money for it - money that was spent to build the high school-level track.

At some point, Craig said, he made the track unusable after he made a futile attempt to bring it up to NCAA track standards.

Uh-oh.

This brings us back to the school board, which has a dilemma on its hands. We know it's a dilemma because most of those who will return phone calls won't comment much longer than 10 seconds on questions involving this track.

The costly option is to redo the track - an option for which initial estimates have ranged between $500,000 and $750,000.

This ought to anger taxpayers, but it will make the Tri-State track enthusiasts happy since they raised some of the money to build a college-level track.

The other option is to return the track to high school standards - which would cost nothing and allow athletes to use it next spring. Of course, I'm sure the track enthusiasts will want their money back.

So it's really time to end this madness.

I'm sure a college-level track would be nice, but what's so bad about building a high school track at a high school? Or are we missing something here?

Terry Headlee is executive editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7594, or by e-mail at terryh@herald-mail.com.

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