Track and Field Ready For Upgrades

By Jane Ernsberger
Times-Junction News Editor

The track and football field are aged at Willard High School, according to Willard City School Superintendent Jeff Ritz. The board of education has discussed some of the problems with the venues in the past.

Ritz said he had Michael Lillo, director of buildings and grounds, get some bids on redoing the track he told board members. Lillo also worked with track coach Dominic Fratta in deciding what was needed.

"I told you it was going to be $100,000," Ritz noted. "I was off a bit. I have a suggestion for what we can do. Years back when we did the energy conservation grant, we had to pay that off. Our payments will be paid off this year for that grant."

Ritz said the district put a new floor in the Haas gymnasium and secured a loan to pay for it. That loan should be paid off next year, he pointed out.

"We're looking at doing this project next summer out of next year's budget," Ritz noted. "What I'm suggesting is we could take out another loan to pay for this."

With the condition of the track and the football field in question, Ritz said he would like to see the district take out a loan to redo the track and do some work on the football field. He cited recent resodding by an area district football field that cost $120,000.

"When you put the two together, you are talking about $300,000 roughly," Ritz pointed out. "The problem with my whole thought pattern is that we asked for bids on this, being that it's not an emergency situation. That means we could go and let the track and the football field just deteriorate and go, but I prefer not to do that."

Since it is not an emergency situation, Ritz said the board of education would have to open the project up to bids and proposals and the district would go on from there.

"We can all agree on this," Lillo said. "When the boosters put our track in in the late '80's, it has served us well, over 20 years. We stuck very little money into that track. To get this track to still serve us well, it's going to cost some money. It's not going to be a cheap fix."

Lillo presented board members with three proposals. If the project was to go out for bid, Lillo said he thought the price could come down for the project.

"They have to fix the foundation," Ritz pointed out.

"It has served us 25, 27 years," Lillo said. "All we've done is paint it and do some patches. So, it is time to probably do something to the foundation."

Lillo equated the problems with the track to road repairs. He said you can patch the bad spots, or you can do base repair and make the fix a lasting one.

"You could no some repairs," he pointed out. "Nobody knows how bad the asphalt is until you lift it up."

Currently, the track at Willard High School is polyurethane, Lillo noted. That surface is more durable than latex.

"My recommendation is when we go out to bid, there is only going to be a difference of $10,000 if we stay with a polyurethane in the bidding process just to durability. In Ohio, the weather is so extreme, it's just a better performing track.

"I would stay with black," Lillo added. "I can't justify $25,000 for a color unless someone wants to donate that money up front. I would stay with the black color. To me, saving $24,000 is not an option on a close to $200,000 project."

One bid would include a polyurethane surface but first start by taking off the track, milling the surface to 1.5-inches, repairing everything and putting the structure back on with a cost of $229,335, according to Lillo. Just to do the surface itself would costs $85,000 to $90,000.

Lillo said the athletic boosters have committed $10,000 each year for 10 years.

Ritz said the boosters have been around for years but reminded members of the board of education whose responsibility it would become.

"They do a good job for us, "Ritz said of the boosters, "but you are committing to the loan. "The boosters could go under next year. You are responsible for the repayment of that loan.

"I don't think that will happen," he stated. "I wanted to make that very clear."

Ritz said he wanted the board to make the decision whether or not to ask Lillo to open the project up for bids. If the board of education decides to move forward, the district would apply for a loan next July or August to pay for the project.

"There are several other things that are coming," he told board members. "The football field. We've also got the bus garage that we are looking at doing.

"We are also looking at that Haas gymnasium," he added. "When we tear down the high school, they are going to enclose that."

Ritz said the district left $180,000 in the Locally Funded Initiatives from the building project.

"They are telling us that it is so close to what it's going to cost," he noted. "We are just going to have to take that additional money out of the general fund to enclosure. So, we think we have enough to close that building, but you never know until the job is done. So there are several large things."

Ritz told board members they could make a decision to wait a year. "Every year we wait it's going to get worse and worse."

Lillo said he understands the football field gets a lot more activity than the track. What would be the worse case scenario is the school district would be unable to hold track meets.

"Quite honestly, this has been 27 years," Lillo noted. "Should something have been done over the past 27 years?"

"We've exceeded the lifespan of it," Ritz pointed out. "You should budget in athletically. When our athletic department was doing well, we could have budgeted."

According to some research he did, Ritz said the district should have been budgeting between $5,000 and $7,000 year to put into the track.

Putting the football field on hold for a year concerns Ritz. "It's still going to be the same amount. The track is going to continue and deteriorate. The worse it gets, the more expensive it's going to be to repair it.

"That football field is the original field," he added. "Nothing's been done to it other than when Mike (Lillo) was the AD and now that Dave (Ball) is the AD. They put about $8,000 to $9,000 at the end of the season to aerate it and get it all ready for this season. That's not a cheap endeavor for them."

If the district decides to go one more year with the football field, Ritz said it is not going to cost us any more money. If the district waits for one more year to do anything with the track, it will deteriorate further.

"You really need to be educated," Lillo told board members. "There's about $7,000 a year is to be allotted for maintenance for turf. It's not just hands-off."

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