CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield Area School District Board of Directors authorized obtaining the bid specifications for its athletic facilities, including football, soccer and track and field, from HHSDR Architects/Engineers at Monday night’s combined committee and board meeting.
The board hopes to conduct a vote Dec. 5 and progress with a request for proposals. The high school tennis courts weren’t among the requested specifications, while the board had already approved seeking bids for their complete replacement as well as for a “temporary fix” back in June.
Rick Bunning, director of buildings and grounds, presented potential options and anticipated costs for tennis court, football and soccer stadium and track and field improvements, leading to the board’s vote to request for more detailed bidding specifications.
Bunning said the current football field’s irrigation system isn’t sufficient and has come to his attention due to weather conditions of recent years. He said an “immediate, temporary” fix would include grading and seeding, costing $15,000 and the installation of an irrigation system at $25,000.
However, he presented two alternatives, including renovating the field to natural grass or converting to artificial turf and making it a multi-sport facility. If the district went with natural grass, it would cost $290,000, which includes the installation of an irrigation system.
But if the district selected the latter option – artificial turf with drainage, it’s estimated at $900,000 without an irrigation system. The district would have to spend an additional $20,000 to have the proper irrigation installed.
Board President Dave Glass said he “liked” the artificial turf option for the high school’s football field. He said the district spends most of the year “protecting” the field so that they can spend two or three months using it in football season.
Bunning said that he’s pretty much spent the budgeted amount for taking care of the field, and the weather has created for some “mud bowls” over the past two years. He said they have two guys spending four to six hours cleaning the field house after games, and the high school locker room has to be pressure-washed the following day.
“It’s a mess,” Bunning said.
Board member Dr. Michael Spencer said that while the artificial turf option costs more initially, it’s likely to save them maintenance costs related to clean-up down the road.
Glass added that if the district converted the field to a multi-sport facility, it wouldn’t only benefit the football program, but also the soccer and band programs. He said they may even be able to rent out the field to adult flag football leagues.
“We may even be considered for playoff games again,” board member Larry Putt said.
When discussing the soccer field conditions, Bunning noted games have been relocated to the Clearfield Soccer Association field in the past. He said they’ve had to change venues for baseball and softball games as well because of field conditions.
An immediate, temporary fix would include grading and seeding at $10,000 and installing an irrigation system at $45,000, he said. However, if it renovated to natural grass, the district would also have to spend $147,000 for a drainage system and $200,000 for lighting.
If the district converted the soccer field to artificial turf, it would cost $10,000 for grading and seeding and $147,000 for installing a drainage system, Bunning said.
He indicated members of the soccer program have expressed concerns that they don’t have enough time to play. He said with days shorter, they’ve scheduled varsity games for 4 p.m. But if the district went with a multi-sport football field, he said the soccer lighting issues go away.
Overall, Bunning recommended converting the football field to a multi-sport facility rather than investing in improvements to both of the athletic fields. He said it also wouldn’t require as much maintenance and would become more accessible for band, baseball and softball practices.
Track and Field
Bunning said the district had two options regarding the track and field facilities. If they went with a temporary fix, it would cost $100,000 to reseal and reline the track, in addition to $55,000 to relocate the pole vault and long jump, which he said are currently located along the sidelines, creating a safety hazard and drainage problems. The latter expense is included with the artificial turf option.
The district also has the option to completely reconstruct a new running track at $404,000, he said.
Bunning said the high school’s tennis courts could undergo a “3- to 5-year fix,” which would consist of cutting and filling voids, repaving and painting. He said this option would run approximately $214,363.
Alternatively, he said the district could reconstruct four new tennis courts by the field house for $400,000. In addition, it could reconstruct the existing six tennis courts with drainage for $515,000.
Principal Kevin Wallace estimated the boy’s and girl’s tennis program probably had around 25 participants combined. According to a prior GantDaily report from June, 16 boys and 10 girls had then participated in the tennis programs.
At one point, Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman interrupted the board’s discussion, accusing the district of “killing” its girl’s and boy’s tennis programs. He said for years, they have allowed the tennis courts to deteriorate before declaring them unplayable and padlocking them.
Ammerman said the school’s teams have been forced into practicing on two, “extremely poor” tennis courts located in Clearfield Borough. In addition, he pointed out that every match must be played away.
“Instead of six, they’ve been forced to practice on two courts . . . They’re getting on buses and traveling to District 6 schools, which are further away than the District 9 schools that they used to play,” Ammerman said. “If you’re saying you don’t have the numbers, it’s because you’re killing your own program.”
Ammerman described the presented costs as “inflated” and said he’d previously referred the district to Lutz Sports Surfaces. He said they’d priced a 3- to 5-year fix at approximately $44,000 as compared to the $214,363 from the district’s architectural firm.
“You’re getting architectural estimates, not bids here,” Ammerman said.
Other Stadium Needs
Bunning said they have already placed stone around the one end zone, which he described as a “mud pit.” There, he said a passageway has been created for spectators who are entering the football stadium.
However, Bunning said the district still needs paving and concrete walkways, which would cost $63,500 as well as to improve the conditions of its fencing, gates and turnstiles at the cost of $112,000.
According to him, the stadium renovation needs include: football field lighting ($10,000); home bleachers/ramps ($407,000); and visitor bleachers/ramps ($187,000). He said at the present time, the bleachers don’t meet safety regulations and even though the framework is “good,” the floorboards are still going to need replaced.
He said the press box windows ($10,000) and the stadium’s sound system ($25,000) need replaced. If they don’t select the multi-sport surface at the football field, he said a sound system also needs added at the soccer field at the same price.
The board hasn’t made any decision yet regarding the athletic facilities.
Potential Closing of Clearfield Middle School
Glass said the district had previously decided to relocate the seventh and eighth grades to the Clearfield Area High School, converting it into a seventh through twelfth grade facility. However, he wanted to initiate discussions about the future of the fifth and sixth grades.
He asked board members to begin considering if they wanted these grade levels to remain at the middle school, sent back to the district’s elementary buildings; or consolidated into a single but to be expanded elementary school.
Glass said the board would revisit the discussion and schedule a Section 780 Hearing for the middle school in a few months.
Consolidation or Renovations of Elementary Buildings
Glass admitted the future of the district’s elementary buildings relied on information they would receive about the conditions of the Girard-Goshen Elementary School. However, he believed consolidating to two buildings may be the most economic option.
However, board member Phil Carr asked to be presented with absolute proof. He said before the board moves forward, it must conduct an analysis of the net present value to know with certainty that they’re making the right decision. Glass suggested that Carr meet with Otto and Maney to which Carr agreed.
“I think it’s a bigger job than we can handle,” Carr said of the net present value analysis. He suggested the district hire an outside accounting firm to which district solicitor Aimee Willett suggested one based in Johnstown.
When asked by board members, Willett indicated the district could either host one Section 780 Hearing for multiple building closures, or it could have separate hearings for each. But when advertising multiple hearings being held at once, it must clearly identify which school buildings are being discussed so that there isn’t any confusion among residents who choose to attend.