School Boards Cover Variety of Issues

Thursday, November 17, 2016
The RES Lego team presents to the Rector School Board at their meeting Monday evening.(courtesy photo)

Members of the Piggott School Board took a step back from talk of a 1,500-seat section of new bleachers Monday after hearing again an estimated cost of $1 million for upgrades to the high school football stadium.

The board last month heard from a representative from Brackett Krennerich Architects, who answered questions and offered advice as the board brainstormed ideas for upgrades at Parker Field. Architect Todd Welch advised the board to first settle on a number of seats needed for the home side of the field; the company would then return this month with more specific plans for the board to consider.

The board was told then of the $1 million budgeted for the project from existing bond funds and had settled on a figure of 1,500 for the bleacher seating. However, after again hearing the estimated allotment of $1 million on Monday, board members appeared to feel differently about the proposed project.

After discussion on ideas for a new concession stand with bathrooms connected to the back of the structure stalled around the question of what to do with trees in that area of the existing stadium - the board advised the architect to return with options on that issue - talk returned to the bleachers. When the architect told the board the new bleachers came at a cost of $125 per person, board members began questioning the overall project cost.

"We've got money to pay with, but..." board president Hope Burns started, without completing the thought aloud.

The board was told $1.8 million remains in existing bond funds for such projects within the district. A breakdown of the stadium project proposal then concluded that $187,000 would be needed for the 1,500-seat bleacher section, while the bulk of the cost would be from a press box above the bleachers and, mostly, from the utilities required for a new set of bathrooms and for appliances and water works in the concession stand.

The board then discussed reducing the number of bleacher seats and size of the press box, while downsizing the restrooms to match the decreased number of potential spectators at the games. For instance, building 1,000 seats - roughly the existing number of seats at Parker Field - would lower the bleacher cost to $125,000 and would also require less space and utility cost for the restrooms as they would need to accommodate fewer fans to the stadium.

"When we start looking at the project, you have to start taking things out, just like building a house," superintendent Charlie Powell explained to the board.

The board ultimately decided to ask the architect to return with potential plans for a smaller seating area and its resulting smaller need for the other items included in the project.

The board asked if the Arkansas Athletic Association would require schools the size of Piggott to hold 1,500 seats in order to host playoff football games, but Powell said that is not the case and host schools are determined by seeding.

Board members also discussed scaling back the concession stand and asking booster clubs to help foot the bill for any items not included in the basic design.

In other business at Monday's meeting, the board learned the district is likely one of three to qualify for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant for up to $600,000 to add a safe room that will hold 500 people in the event of an emergency at the district.

Board members discussed different locations for a safe room without deciding on it, and decided to proceed with pursuit of the grant in the meantime as the bid process will not start until summer.

The board also approved a bid of $7,210 by D&G Plumbing and Heating of Piggott to install a new HVAC system in Room 137 at the school. The board noted the winning bid included one company handling the entire project rather than others that had separate contractors for electrical work.

After a visit from the state fire marshal, the board decided to spend roughly $7,000 to install a fire alarm system at the old gym. May Securities was awarded the job after Powell told the board the fire marshal required a plan for the upgrade by Dec,. 7.

The board also approved annual bonuses for all employees, the same $500 per employee as given by the district last year at a total cost of $77,000 to the district. Last year, employees get the $500 bonus (before taxes) in the fall and then get another $750 later in the year.

Also at Monday's meeting, the board fielded a request to partially pay for improvement to the school's baseball field, elevating the field to allow for drainage of rain that currently prevents the field from optimal use. The board instructed Powell to seek grant money for the proposed project.

In her superintendent's update to the board, Powell said enrollment within the district is down two students from October, with 868 students currently enrolled. She also reported Facebook pages have been set up for the elementary and high schools, with individual staff assigned to manage each. She said the goal is to keep the pages as sources of information to be distributed to the public rather than a source of two-way communication.

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