Stadium fix nixed by board

Athletes hoping for a better field at Memorial Stadium will have to keep waiting.

The Oak Harbor School Board put an improvement project on hold Monday night by rescinding a decision they made during a November school board meeting.

The school district decided to halt the project because of money concerns and after learning the work would disrupt the fall and spring athletic seasons.

The project would have improved the playing surface and provide new aluminum bleachers to replace the current temporary ones erected at the stadium.

“I’m really nervous about the financing of it,” said Rick Schulte, superintendent of the Oak Harbor School District.

To fund the $650,000 project, the school district would have used money earmarked to pay off a bond this year. To pay off the bond on schedule, in 2010, the school district would have to rely on Supplemental Impact Aid — which is a funding source that fluctuates yearly.

Schulte said he is certain that Impact Aid is going down in the next two years but he’s uncertain how much the reduction will be.

He added that the funding cuts are arriving at a time when teachers are stretched thin, employees are making more requests and costs are generally increasing in the school district.

“Honestly it looks like revenues are going down while expenditures are going up,” Schulte said.

The school district is trying to get state money that provides funding for emergency repairs for the stadium bleachers. Schulte said during the meeting the chances of receiving the funding are slim but still worth pursuing.

“It’s a long shot,” Schulte said. “As long as it’s on the table, it’s still worth looking into.”

When the school board first approved the Memorial Stadium plan early last month, there wasn’t a timeline in place on the duration of the project.

It turns out that, even if design work on the project started immediately, the field couldn’t be used during the spring and fall sports season.

Schulte said it’s tough to find alternative athletic fields. He added alternative fields in the school district don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate high school athletic events.

To undertake the improvement project the school district would have to talk with WesCo officials about the availability of alternative fields at other schools.

Another option for the school district would be to hold games at the North Whidbey track. However, that track and field needs replacement. That project is scheduled to begin next spring.

One person, Oak Harbor resident Scott Hornung, spoke in support of moving forward with the project.

The school board understood Hornung’s position and board member Dave McCool apologized to him.

He added that the school district should also keep in mind the Rotary Club’s fund-raising effort to raise money for a new stadium and related athletic facilities at the high school.

“I don’t want to undermine those efforts,” McCool said.

Fellow board member Kathy Chalfant said any extra money the school district has should go toward improvements at the high school. When the school board originally approved the Memorial Stadium project last month, she was the only board member to vote against the motion.

However, things changed Monday evening. The school board unanimously voted to rescind the decision from the Nov. 8 school board meeting.

Now that the project is on hold, Schulte said he will look into finding a better funding source.

He couldn’t say when the school board will decide on upgrades at the old stadium.

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