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North Hagerstown High track: Stadium committee's experience

November 23, 2008

When Mike Callas publically announced he would be the honorary campaign chairman for the stadium project in May 2004, he told the committee "perseverance overcomes everything." This quote is on the plaque below the bust of Mike in front of the North Hagerstown High School stadium. In 2004, the stadium committee did not fully appreciate the wisdom of his words. We do now.

As a member of the Mike Callas Stadium committee and its former chairman, I would like to provide a different perspective than what has recently been reported and editorialized on in The Herald-Mail.

The track was designed to be compliant with USA Track and Field standards because a credible group of individuals from the track and field community agreed to pay for the design changes needed for this certification. A certified track requires a maximum 1 percent cross-slope, whereas most high school tracks require a maximum 2 percent cross-slope.

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Many colleges have this certification, but it is a misnomer to call it a collegiate track. It is a high school track that will be certified, making it a potential venue for regional track meets, as reported in The Herald-Mail,

Howard Community College has this certification. Howard CC has hosted two USA Track and Field events and it does not have bleachers or restrooms. Private donations from the track and field community have created this tourism opportunity for Washington County. These individuals should be commended for their foresight.

When new bid documents to complete the track were released on July 31, 21 months after the stadium's dedication, it was learned that a recently completed engineering study required a significant amount of rework to complete the track. The one bid received required $853,000 to bring the track up to the contracted design specifications and $774,000 to meet a 2 percent cross slope design.

On Sept. 4, WCPS announced that a settlement had been reached to complete the track to the contracted design specifications without additional cost to WCPS.

We applaud Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan, Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael, Chief Legal Counsel Tony Trotta and Executive Director of School Operations, Rob Rollins for their success in reaching this settlement to uphold the contract.

The Herald-Mail reported that WCPS officials stated the 1 percent cross-slope of the track was incorporated into the design documents that were sent out for bids and all parties were aware of the design before bidding on the project. Stadium committee members participated in numerous design meetings and all of the weekly project meetings in 2006 that were documented with minutes. WCPS public statements about the track were accurate.

The educational specifications for the stadium approved by the BOE sought both public and private funding for the project. Approximately 70 percent of the capital cost of the almost $5 million stadium ($4.1 million BOE project plus $0.8 million gift-in-kind donations) was funded from private sources and only $258,000 from the Washington County general fund.

The majority of the public funding came from the state through Project Open Space funds and bond bills. Payments to the county to retire the debt on the stadium are on schedule.

The North High community acted on this potential with the stadium. Other schools have completed successful fundraising projects, too.

The delegation, Board of County Commissioners, Board of Education, and the Hagerstown City Council should provide policies and guidelines for community groups that are willing to raise funds for much needed facilities at our schools or anywhere in the county or city.

They should set aside some level of matching funds to be used to purchase assets at much less than market cost because of the private contributions. The WCPS Foundation is presently being reformed, with one of its functions to help guide community groups with this type of endeavor.

The legacy of Mike Callas Stadium is not just a beautiful facility at North High. Its true legacy is a process that can be duplicated wherever citizens can raise money to fund projects in a partnership with the BOE, city, county, and/or state that makes Washington County a better place to live.

John Williamson
Former Chairman
Mike Callas
Stadium Committee

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