By Joel Phelps
A new artificial turf at Badger Stadium is going to cost $789,000 more than what was originally pitched to the school board.
After much discussion Tuesday the Arkadelphia Board of Education voted unanimously on a change order that will allow the Texas-based Hellas Construction to remove the existing sub-grade and drainage that was installed in 2014 by the original contractors, GeoSurfaces.
Tuesday’s decision puts the project at $1.6 million.
A project manager for Hellas explained to the school board that removing the current turf unearthed a swath of issues relating to drainage and stability beneath the turf.
Showing school board members a PowerPoint presentation with photographs of the findings, Hellas’ Joshua Fleming pointed out sinkholes, a deteriorated drain mat, rotted 2x4s that were used as nailers, and collapsed drain pipes the previous company had installed. It had also used plywood to cover 12 grated drains on the edges of the original grass field.
Drainage at the field has been an ongoing problem, explained Jimmy King, director of support services for Arkadelphia Public Schools. King said he has been on the field in ankle-deep water after heavy rains. With the collapsed 8” drainpipes and the covered grated drains, storm water “has nowhere to go,” he said.
Last month the school board gave its nod to spend $856,000 on a new turf, but no one was aware of what was causing the drainage issues until some digging was done.
Hellas’ proposal was to remove what GeoSurfaces had installed and build the sub-grade from scratch, to their standards. The extra work entails stabilizing the subsurface with cement, increasing the drainpipe sizes to 15”, adding the stone drainage system and a proper outflow before installing their patented Cushdrain below the turf.
Their drain system carries a 25-year warranty and has a 40-year life expectancy; the turf carries an 8-year warranty and a 12-year life expectancy. Hellas installs artificial turf for stadiums across the nation, and has installed and maintained turf for NFL teams, according to King.
Fleming fielded several questions from Blake Bell, who presided over the meeting in Casey Motl’s absence.
Asked how long the process would take — with concerns over using the field for summer football practice and, ultimately, the fall season — Fleming said it should take about a month to complete the project. But, he added, “We have to get on it quickly. Time is of the essence.”
Bell also asked how many previous jobs Hellas has done where the previous contractor had done subpar work on the subsurface and drainage system. In the 2 1/2 years Fleming has been with Hellas, he’s overseen 20 projects. “None,” he said in response to Bell’s question. Fleming said he has overseen five remove/replace turf jobs done originally with Hellas’ product, and those subsurfaces were all “perfectly intact,” he said.
Jeff Root asked King his opinion on rumors of a natural spring below the field causing drainage problems. King said he’d reviewed reports from GeoSurfaces and has also been involved in the groundwork once the turf was removed, and has found no evidence to support those claims.
Bell turned the focus of the conversation to finances. Addressing Tammy Barger, the school district’s business manager, Bell asked how comfortable she was in the “major” undertaking. Though Barger ensured the board the district’s finances are “in great shape,” she warned them about any major purchases in the future.
“Can we [absorb the change order]? Yes, we can,” Barger said. “But we’ll have to keep our purse strings drawn” and “scrutinize every purchase” made until the project is paid off. Barger also said her focus in managing the district’s coffers has been ensuring the construction of a new elementary campus.
With a motion from Kenneth Harris to approve the change order and a second from Clark Tennyson, the motion carried. Gina White was also absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Engineering equipment talks tabled
With Motl and White absent, the school board tabled any action on whether the district should donate $182,000 worth of equipment from the high school’s now-defunct engineering program.
Bud McMillion, the engineering program’s facilitator, had sent the board a letter suggesting the equipment be donated to Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist universities.
McMillion was at the meeting to answer questions. Bell asked if there was a market for selling engineering equipment. McMillion said some of the equipment could be sold, adding there are likely buyers for the robots but noting some of the equipment is outdated.
However, McMillion voiced that he would like to see the struggling Henderson take in the equipment. The equipment was purchased with grant money. McMillion said the local entities that made the grants possible would like to see the equipment used locally.
“I would like to see it live on,” he said.
Root recused himself from the conversation, as he said he has a relative in Ouachita’s program that caused a conflict of interest.
After a 40-minute executive session to discuss personnel, the school board reconvened in public to announce the following:
Alexis Jones, elementary teacher, Perritt
Sarah Reynolds, 5th grade teacher, Peake
April Grace, 5th grade teacher, Peake
Tina Calhoon, 4th grade teacher, Peake
Jacob Roberson, PLTW pre-engineering, AHS
Brooke Roberson, secondary chemistry/physics, AHS
David Smith, math teacher, Goza
Angela Epley, secretary/bookkeeper, Perritt
Brandon Hanlon, head band director, AHS
Lori Hanlon, secondary vocal music teacher
Madison Stephens, 3rd grade teacher, Peake
Charlene Viator, middle school math, Goza
Kristin Cloninger, 5th grade teacher, Peake
Ashley Whittle, 5th grade teacher, Peake
Preston Crowder, JH head boys basketball/JH football, Goza
Kayla Hamlin, 5th grade teacher, Peake
Nancy Spears, bookkeeper/secretary, AHS
Taylor Stamps, bookkeeper/secretary, Perritt
Stephanie Givens, from Goza assistant principal to Perritt principal
John Ware, from JH boys head basketball coach to SH boys assistant basketball coach
Ida Tramble, a member of the Clark County Retired Teachers Association, encouraged support of this Friday’s cereal drive.
Rather than a handbook for each campus, it’s likely that there will be a single handbook for students in K-12. That will be discussed at a future school board meeting.
Superintendent Karla Neathery, along with King and Bell, are set to meet with Arkadelphia Police Chief Jason “Shorty” Jackson later this month to discuss the possibility of adding a third school resource officer. A memorandum of understanding between the school district and police department regarding SRO’s is also on the next meeting’s agenda.
Board members agreed they’d like to see the Watch D.O.G.S. program be reinstated.