UNION — The Union County Council and Union County Board of School Trustees met together Monday evening at the Union County Courthouse to discuss the school district’s use of county facilities. Union County Stadium was the primary facility discussed at the meeting.
Prior to the 2012-2013 football season, county council proposed a fee of $95,000 to the school district for rental of the stadium. The fee was $50,000 higher than the district had payed the previous year. The district opted not to pay the proposed fee, and the county suggested the district lease the stadium for $1 and assume the responsibility of the facility’s maintenance and upkeep. The district looked in to those costs, and if the district was to lease the facility, then the district would have to bring the facility up to ADA compliance, which would cost around $1.5 million. If the county rents the facility to the district, then the original codes would be grandfathered in. Therefore, the district rented the facility during the 2012-2013 football season for $45,000, which was the same amount paid the previous year.
On Monday evening, discussion was about what to do for future seasons.
County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair asked school board members two questions in the beginning of the meeting.
“Is there a long-term plan to not use the stadium?” Sinclair asked. “If there’s not a plan, would you consider a plan that responds to this estimate to bring the stadium up to standards to address these needs? Anybody out here knows it (the stadium) needs some attention.”
Longtime county council member Randall “Chump” Hanvey presented a printout from the WBCU website which stated in the announcement of Monday’s meeting that, “It is known that the school district does have a plan in place to build a new stadium on the campus of Union County High School.”
School board chair B.J. McMorris said there were no such plans.
Sinclair said that the county spent roughly $50,000 more on the stadium than the amount received for rental.
“It seems to me we have to account for what we spend, but an extra $50,000 — that’s somebody’s road somewhere that could be fixed,” Sinclair said.
Sinclair said he understood the benefits of the codes being grandfathered in for the county but questioned whether that was the smartest choice.
“Do we really want to be grandfathered forever?” Sinclair asked about the 60-year-old stadium. “Or do we want to bring it up to code for our children, and in my case, grandchildren? Can we really get by another year?”
County department head Ronnie Wade, who oversees day-to-day operations of the Union County Stadium, pointed out some of the county’s expenses regarding the stadium such as replacing lights which included bringing in an engineer.
“We need to put this thing together as a package we can all live with,” Wade said, echoing what several county council members had said — that the county did not want to invest in stadium improvements if the district’s plans were not to continue to use the stadium on a long-term basis.
“You can’t spend $1.5 million for one or two years.”
School board member Kim Bailey suggested that the county come up with several options for the school board to consider.
“We can sit here and do this all night,” Bailey said, referring to the weighing of the pros and cons for each entity.
Kacie Petrie said that council did not get that far at their work session last week in preparation for Monday’s meeting.
“We didn’t come up with any options,” Petrie said. “We didn’t know. The word on the street was you are building your own stadium.”
Sinclair said he would think that the county bringing the stadium up to code and then selling the stadium to the district would also be an option. He said he would guess that 90 percent of the attendance at Union County Stadium was for school district functions, and he considers the district the primary user of the facility.
Board member Jantzen Childers asked what was considered a long-term commitment. He asked if five years was considered long-term. Sinclair said he could not see investing $1.5 million for a five-year commitment. Childers said he just wanted to know — after Monday’s meeting — exactly what the school board needed to discuss.
“Four years from now, I won’t be on school board; I’ll be a regular citizen,” he told Sinclair. “Some of these council members and board members may not be here, and you may not be county supervisor, but we will all be citizens.”
No decisions were made at Monday’s meeting as it was a workshop to ensure that all members of school board and county council received the same pertinent information.
Look for more information about agreements between Union County and the Union County School District regarding facility usage as it becomes available in The Union Daily Times and at www.uniondailytimes.com.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at email@example.com.