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At least two BOE members want college-level track at North Hagerstown High

August 20, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- At least two members of the Washington County Board of Education say they want a college-level track to be built at North Hagerstown High School.

There is currently no suitable running surface at the school. Craig Paving Inc., which was responsible for building the track, completed a high school track at the school's Mike Callas Stadium but school system officials have said they expected an NCAA-level track.

The school board advertised for bids to complete the school's track - asking for bids for both an NCAA-approved track and a high school track.

The deadline to bid on the project is Thursday. Bids will be opened at 2 p.m.

Completing a college-level track at the school now could cost $750,000, Craig Paving Inc. President Roger Craig has said.

School Board President Roxanne R. Ober said she supports the track being built for NCAA track competitions.

"I'd have to support that because that went out with the original documents, and that was the understanding ... that the stadium committee was going to raise the remaining funds to upgrade the track," Ober said.

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An original bid document for the track called for a high school track. The specifications were altered, though. Craig Paving says the specifications were altered after the high school track was built, while school officials say the plans were altered prior to its construction.

Craig has said the track paving that was completed by his company in 2006 met high school standards at that time.

Craig has said he was told in a written change order in early 2007 - after his company completed the work - to bring the track up to college-level standards. To do so would require changing the slope of the track from less than 2 percent to a maximum of 1 percent.

School system officials have said Craig was aware of the desire for a college-level track at North High before it was completed.

"I'm supporting the original agreement that the stadium committee had with Callas Contractors for the 1 percent" slope, Ober said.

Craig Paving is a subcontractor of Callas Contractors.

Board member Bernadette M. Wagner said a local running group donated $50,000 to bring the track to NCAA standards. That was the anticipated cost of the upgrades two years ago.

However, as the cost of oil rose, so did the cost of construction materials, and Wagner said the price of the track is now higher.

"We're in a very different economy than we were two years ago," she said.In addition to the higher cost of building materials, bids being sought also include the cost to tear up parts of the existing track built by Craig Paving Inc. before rebuilding it. Craig has said that is because of a futile effort he made to bring the track up to NCAA standards after building the high school track.

Wagner said that because the $50,000 was donated by the running group for the NCAA-approved track, the school should have that type of track.

"We took that money, and I believe we need to follow through with our commitments," she said.

The school board hopes to utilize a private-public partnership again for the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in downtown Hagerstown. Wagner said it's important for school officials to show potential donors for that project that "we are people of our word."

Wagner said the school system could build the NCAA track using contingency funds, which typically are about 5 percent of the total project cost.

Mike Callas Stadium cost more than $4,080,000, with nearly $1.6 million in local and state government funds, The Herald-Mail has reported. The remainder was in private donations.

That would mean about $200,000 in contingency funds could be set aside to rebuild the track. That could be about $550,000 short of some estimates for the work.

"I would support the school system, if there is a need to put in the additional funds, advocating funds to finish the track as originally specified with contingency funds," Wagner said.

Board member Wayne D. Ridenour said the school board wants an NCAA track at the school if it's possible.

"We just have to see how things play out," he said. "It's getting what is the most reasonable."

Board member Ruth Anne Callaham also said she is interested in the most reasonable outcome.

"(I'm in favor of) whatever is the least painful for the taxpayers and the people of the community," she said. "That's what I want to see happen. I'm still focused on the children getting a track that they can use at the least pain to the community."

Callaham said she does not care whether there is an NCAA-approved track at North High or a high school track.

"I'm focused on those children having something they can use," she said.

Board Vice President Donna Brightman said officials are close to a solution, but would not say what type of track she would prefer at the school.

"What I'm looking at now is cost and contractual commitment (to Craig Paving), and trying to balance those two things," she said in an interview Monday.

Board member Paul W. Bailey declined to comment about the track.

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The issue: The Herald-Mail reported in June that the track surrounding the football field at Mike Callas Stadium at North Hagerstown High School has not been used since the stadium was built.

What's new: Representatives from a company responsible for building the track have said they were given incorrect specifications for the project. School system officials have said Craig Paving Inc. knew what type of track to build at the school. The school board is now seeking bids to complete the school's track - asking for bids for both an NCAA-approved track and a high school track.

Several school board members say they are in favor of an NCAA track being built at the school.

What's next: The deadline to bid on the project is Thursday, and bids will be opened at the Washington County Public Schools central office, 820 Commonwealth Ave. in Hagerstown, at 2 p.m.

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