PERRYOPOLIS — Officials in the Frazier School District continue to search for ways to fund renovations to the district’s athletic stadium they say is riddled with unsafe field conditions, non-ADA compliant walkways, unusable restroom facilities and cramped, fracturing locker rooms.
Despite more conversation, no action was taken last week by the Frazier School Board in matters related to the much-needed upgrades.
For the second time in January, board members discussed potential improvements to the stadium and received input from the public but again were reluctant to move forward with a definitive plan of action, citing financial constraints as projected costs of repairs range from $1 million to $4 million.
Superintendent Dr. Bill Henderson said the district consulted with artificial turf installation company FieldTurf in December regarding upgrades to the aged and worn stadium located along Commodore Drive in Perryopolis. Henderson said FieldTurf presented the district four estimates for various degrees of improvement to the facility.
The first option includes only the replacement of the playing surface with synthetic turf at a cost of $1.04 million.
In the second option, a field replacement and the installation of a 2-3 lane synthetic track around the field would cost the district $1.143 million.
Option three includes a new playing surface, press box and 1,000-seat grandstand at a cost of $1.627 million.
The final option is a combination of the previous three: playing surface, track, press box and grand stand, with the addition of new lighting, at a cost of $2.13.
Additional renovations to the restroom, concession stand and locker room facilities are estimated at an additional $800,000 to $1 million.
“I’m not out looking for some Taj Mahal of a facility,” Henderson said at a January board work session. “I want somewhere that we can be somewhat proud of and have a restroom that people can use and a locker room that can house our students and that’s it.
“This is a bare bones replacement to what we have. It just costs money, and we’re not trying to blow budgets out of the water.”
Henderson said he has contacted other area schools, including California Area School District and California University of Pennsylvania, to explore the possibility of using their facilities for home football games next school year, “if ours is to the point where people are not satisfied.” Henderson also named Uniontown Area School District as a possible location.
Such a move would cost the district transportation and facility leasing fees, he said.
District business manager Kevin Mildren said the district conferred with bond council about the possibility of floating a bond or refinancing a current bond to cover the cost of renovations. The result would cost the district between $110,000 and $178,000 in additional debt service annually if the district were to borrow $4 million for the stadium work, a liberal estimate for the amount needed to fund a complete overhaul, including miscellaneous associated costs.
The district is currently paying a total of about $1.5 million annually on two 30-year bond issues related to the construction of the elementary-middle school complex that opened in 2015.
Mildren said $110,000 in additional debt service is the equivalent of 0.4151 mills of levied school district property tax, whereas $178,000 in additional debt service constitutes roughly 0.6 mills, which nears the district’s limit to increase the millage rate in 2019-20, capped by the state at 0.6176 mills.
Several district residents in attendance at both January meetings voiced that although there is a need for a stadium renovation, a tax increase to fund it will continue to cripple residents in a district that has raised taxes six years in a row.
Some residents suggested performing improvements in phases and working with community groups and seeking grants for funding assistance to avoid a tax increase.
School director Jason Erdely said the district may need to consider making preliminary, low-cost improvements that it can afford.
“Maybe we start by re-grading the field, re-sloping and putting a drainage system in,” Erdely said. “We need to look into someone that can come in here and look at that field and come to the board with a price. Maybe it’s something that’s feasible, and then we can start (to look at upgrading) a locker room.”
The board resolved this week to have Mildren look into cost options for synthetic turf versus a natural grass playing surface. However, Henderson said, a grass field, which the stadium currently has, may not be feasible due to excessive wetness in the area frequently causing mud.
Board President Tom Shetterly said the district has about $1.2 million in its capital reserve fund that could be used for some improvements at the stadium.
“I think we work within our means. Not the full amount, but if we did $500,000 or something like that that we could work with and not have to do another bond issue or another refinancing, (and) find a way to use the funds we have to fix up what we need to,” said Shetterly.