Decatur school trustees whittled on possible bond packages Wednesday night until they had cut $2.6 million from previously discussed totals.
They walked into this week’s meeting with two potential propositions valued at $16,086,925 and left at 11 p.m. with two valued at $13,488,500.
“I’m hopeful that everyone can support the way we put it together,” said President Kevin Haney, addressing fellow board members. “I want everyone comfortable with how we’re packaging it.”
Earlier discussions about a bond focused on dividing it into three different packages, but at the last meeting Superintendent Rod Townsend suggested to the board that they consider just one package or two, at the most.
He presented a two-package option at this week’s meeting to kick off the discussion.
At the end of the night the consensus was to move forward with a $10 million package that includes $3.5 million for facilities, $2.7 million for transportation, $2.8 million for technology and $900,000 for security.
They also agreed that package two would have only one item – a multipurpose indoor practice facility with an estimated pricetag of $3.5 million.
They arrived at the final numbers after a lengthy discussion, the bulk of which revolved around turf at Eagle Stadium. Eventually that item was removed from the bond entirely, along with turf at the high school practice field, with the understanding that it could be installed at some point in the future using construction funds.
Early in the discussion, one of Haney’s arguments for turf was that it would eliminate the need for $810,000 in improvements at three other district locations. Those improvements wouldn’t be needed because the teams that use those facilities could use Eagle Stadium instead.
He said the installation of turf would happen eventually, “if for no other reason than water is getting scarce.
“How long are we going to water this field?” he said.
Board member Diana Mosley said she felt they were “pushing it with turf.” She explained that she was concerned some voters might reject the bond because of turf and in turn, prevent the district from being able to address other needs.
“I think we’ll be at risk of not getting the buses we need for our students,” she said. “I think there will be people concerned about how this is packaged.”
Board secretary Jeff Elder said turf at Eagle Stadium would save work at the Thompson Street field, and he felt like it would be the most bang for their buck.
At a certain point, bond advisor Jeff Robert of First Southwest suggested that something deemed controversial, like turf, could be pulled out of the bond and possibly done later with regularly budgeted construction funds. It was an idea most board members seemed to like, and they began reconfiguring the packages with that in mind.
In addition to turf, several other items were removed from the bond. Those include:
- press box at Eagle Stadium
- band bleachers at Eagle Stadium
- tennis court concession stand and restrooms
- extra work at the sixth grade campus, including a practice field, irrigation and bleachers
- track fencing and parking lot at the high school
- restrooms at the Thomas Street field
- repaving at McCarroll Middle School and work on other parking lots
Townsend said any or all of these projects could be done independently of the bond with construction funds, but he said if the bond does not pass, those funds would likely be used to address the more critical transportation and security issues.
The board made a tentative plan to meet sometime next week to call the bond election. They have until Feb. 27 to do so.