Piggott Board Approves Compromise Plan

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Following a lengthy, and at times contentious, public hearing Monday afternoon the Piggott School Board voted to proceed with a compromise plan on the proposed football stadium/track project.

During the special called meeting the board considered three options, finally agreeing unanimously to opt out of the turf project and instead proceed with construction of a new six-lane track and the related features.

The meeting was held in the PHS library and attracted a crowd of nearly 50 patrons, teachers and interested parties. After welcoming those in attendance, board president Jeff Benbrook turned the floor over to Tim Cowen of Athletic Projects Consultants. Cowen had first brought the plan to the board and had made two previous presentations at meetings.

He reviewed the project, which called for the construction of a turf field, track, long jump ramp, high jump pit, pole vault ramp and other amenities. Total cost of the project, as bid, was $1,081,485.

When making his initial presentation, Cowen also indicated the price would be higher if the construction company encountered problems with the soil type, or if there were additional drainage issues.

During the public hearing on the matter he fielded a variety of questions on the project, the materials used and the reputation of turf fields over natural grass surfaces. A number of patrons of the district also voiced concerns about the long-term affect on the local district finances, as the turf would have to be replaced each eight to 12 years, at a cost of at least $335,000.

Several patrons, and parents, also voiced their support for the project, especially the track. Safety concerns have been a key part of the support for construction of a new track, as local athletes have been forced to run along city streets to train.

Afterward, Benbrook closed the public hearing on the matter and the board convened for the special meeting on considering the proposal. They first voted on Option One, which would approve construction of the full project. The option failed on a vote of 3-2 with board members Hope Burns, Bradley Dunlap and Jennifer Rahn voting against the measure while Benbrook and member Chris Roberts voted yes.

The board then turned their attention to Option Two, which proposed just the addition of turf to the field and no track construction. That option died due to the lack of a motion.

After voting to amend the agenda to consider a third option, the board voted on whether to just build the track and allow superintendent Charlie Powell to explore a renovation project for the restrooms and concession stand at Parker Field. That measure passed without dissent.

After explaining their action to those who remained, the board members fielded a few comments from the crowd. The board then voted to adjourn.

The funds being used for the project are from last fall's extension of the district's bond issue, and may only be used for facilities. The monies from the sale of the bonds, which was about $6 million, must be repaid by the district over the course of the 30-year life of the issue.

When asked what other projects are in the works with the funds, Powell indicated the district will undertake new roof projects on both campuses, renovate the high school library and refurbish and update the entryway at Piggott Elementary School, among other efforts.

Work on the track, and efforts to repair the sod surface on Parker Field, is expected to get underway in the near future.

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