District restricts Sullivan Field use

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Field to be used as intended

By Carol A. Clark

Word that Sullivan Field is to be off limits to non-school activities brought county officials and members of the public to the podium during Thursday’s school board meeting in White Rock.

The issue surrounding field usage began to simmer last year following a large-scale employee picnic held by Los Alamos National Laboratory during which the track was damaged.

County Administrator Max Baker submitted a letter of concern to Superintendent Mary McLeod in December.

“As you may know, John Wolfe of your staff has been meeting regularly with the County’s Recreation Manager, Randy Smith, regarding the Joint Use Agreement that we currently have with the district,” Baker stated in his letter. “As the reciprocal use of facilities was discussed during a recent meeting, John informed Randy that the district would no longer be allowing public use of Sullivan Field due to damage that was caused by a non-school user. John stressed the importance of treating all of the public the same; therefore, he told Randy it was likely that the county would not be able to use the facility.”  

Baker said the county understands the value of Sullivan Field to the community, which is the primary reason it contributed $100,000 to its recent renovation and why the county continues to provide use of the adjacent parking lot for school use without cost.

He asked that the county’s recreation division staff, which has sponsored the annual Hershey Track and Field Event for youth since 2000 and serves as one of four state coordinators, be allowed to continue using the track.

One man said he is intimately familiar with the field’s joint-use agreement.

“I’m from the Rugby Team and we’ve had hundreds of kids who have played on that field,” he said. “I know it cost a lot ($2 million plus), but the community also put in a lot of money – including rugby members. I hope you realize the field is a community resource.”

Another man described Sullivan Field as something the kids need and said, “I am asking this board to step up and let the kids use the field even if it’s to toss a Frisbee around.”

While primarily intended for track and field practice and events, Sullivan Field also is used by area security and law enforcement agencies to train and test employees.

“What has been directly communicated to SOC, and they have physical fitness qualifications every year, is the school board is going to prohibit all use of the track except the high school,” County Council Vice Chair Mike Wismer said.

He said the track is the only site that SOC guards, who provide security to LANL, can qualify on to be certified fit for duty. The guards would be willing to go through any training necessary to be able to use the track for their qualification requirements, he said.

“I’m not against use of the track but I am against misuse of the track,” board member Jody Benson said.

Board Vice President Joan Ahlers agreed, adding, “as long as the track is used for its intended purpose and is treated with respect.”

Board President Steve Girrens said he asked for the issue to be placed on the agenda because the board had been hearing “confusing things.”  After listening to the discussion, Girrens said while he is against anyone holding a huge picnic in the middle of Sullivan Field – he also is against prohibiting kids from using the track and field.

“I want our youth to be able to enjoy that field,” he said. “And I have no conflict with SOC using the track because it is the only measured track for certifications.”

Board Secretary Ken Johnson agreed. “I am for anyone using it for its intended purpose.”

The subject closed with the board agreeing to allow anyone to use Sullivan Field so long as they use it for running, qualifying for fitness certifications and for appropriate sporting events.

Then, LAPS Director of Business Services John Wolfe and his staff received praise for their handling of the district’s finances.

“This audit was an unqualified opinion – which is the best a school district can get,” auditor JJ Griego said. “It was very successful.”

The meeting was the last one for board member Alison Beckman and Girrens as neither sought re-election.

During the last four years, Beckman put much of her focus on the district’s finances, fretting profusely at many board meetings. After listening to Griego’s audit results, she commended Wolfe, who is relatively new to the district, for getting the finance office on solid footing.

Indicating she could now go peacefully into school board retirement knowing the district’s financial well-being is in capable hands, Beckman said, “I am so happy with the results of this audit - it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.”

Regarding the district’s search for a new superintendent, Girrens said the position closed Friday.

The search consultant has received some 30 applications. He is weeding out the under pars.

Telephone interviews will be conducted with top candidates Tuesday and the entire interview process should be completed by March 18.

Interim Superintendent Mary McLeod has agreed to stay on through July 10 to help ensure a smooth transition.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her blog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.