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Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Football stadium going long - to new school site

By Janie Southard
St. MARYS - The football stadium will be relocated to the new 6-12 school property following a 3-2 vote at the highly charged board of education meeting Wednesday night.
Board member Craig Gottschalk first made a motion to keep the current athletic stadium, with only himself and Aaron Braun voting yes. Then board member Ralph Wiley made a motion to move athletic facilities to the new school site and it passed with yes votes from Wiley, Lisa Tobin and Rees McKee.
There was lengthy discussion by the board, as well as opinions for and against the move by the many audience members in attendance. Emotion has run high on this issue, which began when Ohio School Facilities Commission money became available to build the new 6-12 school.
Athletic director Joe Bline said he was "prepared to support whatever the board decided and make it work."
Other audience comments were less supportive and several said they were "just glad this is over."
McKee stated during the discussion period that locating at the new school would not be that "we just drop everything and begin out there." He said a plan will begin now on how to get the move accomplished.
"We'll be here (old stadium) for another two or three years while we phase in the new facility," he said. "I realize there are those who have a personal attachment to the old stadium, but we must look at long-term effects."
Funding for the new athletic complex has not been defined and was not included in the original levy. Wiley stated the plan will come before funding considerations.
"Do you know of any big building project that did not start with a goal?" he said.
Gottschalk's support of staying put focused on need and the most efficient use of tax dollars.
"We needed upgrades so we remodeled East and West (elementries). We don't need to build a new athletic facility. It's not efficient," he said.
"I think this would ensure failure of our operating levy next year," he continued. "This is a financial drain and leaves us in a financially untenable position. The community will think we used the leftover money (resulting from very low bids on the 6-12 building) as a slush fund."
Some residents have said the board members told them that any extra funds from the building project would go toward paying off the debt early.
Braun added relocating the facilities is the district's "worst possible move."
Resident Bill Kellermeyer voiced his ire at the board.
"You have not used good PR (public relations) with the community on this, now your backs are against the wall. ...You have no plan for walkers to get to the school. You say the walking bridge is three or four years away. Believe me, those walking kids will find some way to get to the school.
"Shame on you for not having a vision. What multi-million dollar project do you know that doesn't have vision?" he asked.
Working on the project has been the St. Marys Athletic Development Group, which has more than a dozen options for future athletic facilities ranging in price from $55,000 to $7 million. The options ranged from using the current Skip Baughman stadium and renting restrooms and locker rooms to building a new stadium with sports turf, soccer field and track at the new school.
In other action, the board:
• Passed the resolution declaring the necessity to levy a .75 mill, five-year property tax levy generating $183,904 for the benefit of the St. Marys Community Public Library. The school is the fiscal agent for the library.
• Learned from treasurer Tom Sommer that the five-year forecast is "not great but will get us through next year with a positive balance" of more than $2.4 million. He added with the state the budget is a moving target. "The state is notorious for saying in November we can't make it through the biennium and we'll have to make cuts ... I've seen it happen," he said.
• Approved bidding on the construction of a track and field physical education facility at the new school site.
• Learned the new traffic light at Shipman Road and state Route 66 will be operational by the start of the 2010-2011 school year.
• Recognized the athletic achievements of Memorial High School track star Mekayla Breland, who placed first in the state in Division II shot put.
• Learned the district has received a $199 donation to the gifted program from Dr. Lance and Mrs. Carol Bryant.
• Learned from superintendent Mary Riepenhoff that all elementary classrooms are packed and ready for the move into the grade level building system.
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