Board grapples with track and field fix

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Turf wars: Questions arise about bidding procedure, timing

Uneven surfaces and overall deterioration of the grounds has middle school officials calling for funding to fix the problems and prevent further injuries to student athletes.

Gopher holes that pose dangers, injured knees and twisted ankles are a few of the claims made by Los Alamos Middle School coaches about the track and field hazards at LAMS during Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

A handful of coaches from cross-country, track and football, attended the meeting to voice their concern about the current conditions and encourage board members to consider options for a new turf project.

According to a PowerPoint presentation given by Bruce Martin, general superintendent for Centennial Contractors Enterprise, Inc., “LAPS implemented a Job Order Contract in 2002. The JOC is based on competitively bid unit prices and provides economies of scale for small- to medium-sized projects ranging from $10,000 to $1.5 million. It’s also a long-term contract that promotes cooperation and performance.”

Centennial told district officials that the LAMS track and field could be refurbished for $1.5 million.

In an undated letter from LAPS Athletic Director Vicki Nelms to LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt and school board members, she stresses the importance of proceeding with the track and field project at LAMS.

“We told the community, before the last referendum was passed, that the mid school football field would be completed by the 2012 school year (if it passed). Once it passed we presented during athletic meetings what athletics has planned with the money over the next six years. I believe to go back and tell the community and the mid school students that this will not happen could be damaging to any future referendum and bond elections,” the letter stated. Nelms was at the Tuesday meeting and shared her thoughts with board members.

LAMS Principal Rex Kilburn also urged prioritization of the project, saying the track and field is an outside classroom. “It’s something that matters. I was excited when Vicki came to look at it two years ago. I thought it (the project) was happening last year,” he said. Kilburn described the current track and field, “It’s a nasty place, it’s despicable,” he said.  

Board President Melanie McKinley had concerns about the project, with the construction currently going on at LAMS.

“What if it gets damaged with the construction?” she queried.

“I put my faith in these people that they’ll do what they say they’ll do,” Kilburn responded.

After hearing from the coaches, McKinley appeared to be annoyed and said she wished she would have known this has been a problem for so long. “We’ve waited for so long that now we have to use JOC. Why didn’t this go out for bid?” she asked.

One coach said the issue had been brought to the board previously, but coaches were always told that the project could be done later and so they were forced to make do with what they had.

“We had a full year to plan and go out for bid. I don’t understand why we’re here at the 11th hour, with our hands tied,” McKinley said.

LAPS Vice President Kevin Honnell agreed with McKinley, initially saying he would not approve the project.

“It should have been brought to the board a year ago. We’re just hearing about it tonight,” he said. “I haven’t heard a compelling story to short circuit taxpayer dollars.”

McKinley asked if it would be possible to get a Qualified Request for Proposal, but Schmidt said changing direction now would deny them the ability to use advisers and may result in low-quality work.

“You might get a better price on the front end, but not on the back end,” Martin said.

Board Member David Foster said the need for the project has been clearly established, but it seems like there are serious questions.

“We’re caught in a difficult situation,” he said. “More information for the board is needed before it’s forced into a decision. I’m on the fence.”

After hearing Foster’s comments, Honnell had a change of heart. “I agree with Dave. This project has overwhelming support of staff,” he said, pointing out that the staff support meant a lot.

After further discussion by the board, they decided that the project was a necessity and a safety issue, but that more time is needed to discuss how to proceed.

No decision was made Tuesday night. The issue will come back before the board in January for a final decision.