• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Building new high school, not athletic ,facilities discussed

The Woodford County Board of Education talked about how the district might move forward with the construction of a new high school – and not build a new football stadium and other athletic facilities – during a work session on Monday night.

The discussion came after some residents in the community raised issue with building athletic facilities on the campus of a new high school when those facilities already exist at the Woodford County Park.

“We certainly don’t need a duplication of facilities that we already have,” said Ben Craine, a Woodford County native. It doesn’t make economic sense “to build new (athletic) facilities when we have probably some of the best facilities in the state,” added resident Doug Matthews.

In 2011, Woodford County Public Schools entered into a lease with Woodford Fiscal Court that allowed the district to continue using the county-owned Community Stadium for football and soccer games. Terms of the front-loaded lease allowed improvements – most notably the installation of an artificial playing surface – to occur.

Because that 12-year lease agreement with the county does not end until 2023, board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV said the district could continue using Community Stadium and not build a new football/soccer facility as part of the high school project. Other agreements with the county allow the school district to use additional athletic facilities, including baseball and softball fields, and an indoor swimming pool at Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said.

Longtime Versailles attorney Ralph Combs told the board that he thinks there’s a need for a new high school. But if the board voted to include a new football stadium and other athletic facilities as part of the project, he predicted there will be a successful petition drive against board action to enact a six percent facilities tax to pay for a new $47 million high school.

In directing Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith and architect Margie Jacobs to provide the board with the cost of building a new high school without athletic facilities that already exist at the County Park, Wilson said, “We need to focus on building a new high school.”

“I agree,” said board Vice Chair Debby Edelen. “It seems like the high school has become the side dish and the football field has become the main dish – and we need to flip that.”

The issue of whether or not the school district should continue using county-owned athletic facilities can be addressed when the district’s lease agreement with the county ends in 2023, Wilson added.

Earlier, Combs dismissed a rumor that Community Stadium’s concrete structure is deteriorating. The facility remains safe and structurally sound, but renovations to the restrooms and press box are needed, he said.

Board attorney Bob Chenoweth began Monday night’s work session by explaining how Kentucky’s Interlocal Cooperation Act allows a public school district to enter into an agreement with another governmental agency. Such an agreement with

Woodford Fiscal Court could allow Woodford County Public Schools to have an ownership stake in Community Stadium, but the school board would be limited in terms of what dollars it could spend to make improvements to the athletic facility.

Under a recently-approved district facilities plan, Hawkins pointed out that the board could not spend facilities money to make stadium improvements until priorities on the plan are completed. Those priorities include the construction of a new high school and major renovations to Northside and Southside elementary schools.

So under the current facilities plan, the district could only spend general fund dollars, which are typically spent on operating expenses such as teacher salaries, to make any improvements to the stadium – even if it had an ownership stake under an interlocal cooperation agreement with fiscal court.

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