New baseball field changes strike out with trustees

Lack of enthusiasm for scaled-back facility puts project on hold
By MIKE BROWN Reporter Editor

The plan to "modernize" Rockdale High School's baseball field has struck out.

At least for this year, that is. A revised proposal to proceed with a scaled-back renovation died for lack of a second during a called school board meeting Monday evening.

The revised proposal, which carried a guaranteed maximum price of $749,000, didn't satisfy either faction of the school board.

The original proposal had generated a pair of split school board votes in September with some members objecting to its cost.

On Monday a major backer of the original proposal, trustee Lee Jenkins, asked a number of questions indicating he felt the revised plan didn't go far enough.

Silence, no second

Board vice-president Michelle Lehmkuhl, presiding in the absence of president James Birkhead, called the question and said she would accept a motion from trustees. There was silence for about 30 seconds.

Finally, board member Mike Pruett made a motion, understood to be for acceptance of the guaranteed maximum price.

Nobody seconded and the matter died without a vote.

Fees in connection with the project, mostly architect fees, were estimated at an additional $66,000. Fees are still owed by the district.

Split votes

The matter first came before trustees in May and in July Claycomb was retained to provide options for modernizing the field.

Karl Kacir, assistant superintendent for business, noted that $1 million had already been set aside for projects, including the baseball field upgrade.

On Monday, Kacir said about $475,000 was left in that account and the rest—about $341,000 including fees—would need to come out of fund balance.

In July, administrators were hopi ng t he upg r ade wou ld include a structure large enough to hold not only a concession stand, press box and restrooms but also athletic department offices.

With of f ices removed, an expansion of the Tiger Field weight room was envisioned.

In September, acceptance of the plan passed on a 4-2-1 vote with Birkhead, Jenkins, Pruett and Wayne Fisher voting in favor, while Lehmkuhl and Lisa Gerthe voted against. Trustee Barbara Grayson abstained.

In that same meeting Bartlett Cocke of San Antonio was hired as general contractor.

That vote was 4-3 along the same lines with Grayson switching her vote from "abstain" to "no."

Scaled back

But when actual bids on the project were opened in October, totals were about double the $750,000 envisioned.

"I should have used the Walter Pond method for estimating costs," Supt. Dr. Howell Wright said Monday, referring to his predecessor in the position. "He told me to double the cost of a project estimate because that's what's it's going to be."

Trustees directed Claycomb representative Bo Ledoux to cut the cost of the project and re-bid.

Ledoux presented results of the scaling bid, and the re-bidding process, on Monday.

The revised plans included a revised building with about half the square footage originally proposed—1,350 square feet compared to 2,400—and no athletic offices.

The building would be heated but not air conditioned. Lighting and a new scoreboard, part of the original proposal, was dropped.

No changes would be made to the field itself except for new dugouts. A secured, fenced area would extend from behind the third base dugout to behind the first base dugout.


That didn't sit well with some of the board members.

Jenkins pointed out the scorer's area would now be at ground level and some partitions would have to be put up on game day to block public access between the building and the backstop.

"You're telling me I could stand behind the umpire at a softball game (the softball complex has an upper story press box) but not at a baseball game." Jenkins said.

"There's no way to put the coaches' office back in there?" he asked.

Fisher asked if the cost was being driven up by specifying Feb. 1 as a completion date.

Kevin Byrd of Bartlett-Cocke agreed that every day was crucial but the timetable was not a factor in the cost.

"I'm very confident in the number of bidders we had, as many as 12 in some areas, that this ($749,000) is an accurate reflection of the cost of this project," he said.

Byrd said if the project had been approved Monday evening construction would have begun on Tuesday.


In other business, Dr. Wright advised the board he had accepted the resignation of special education/ELA instructor Ryan Erwin.

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