Public: District should try facilities vote again, with some tweaksPublished 10:50am Tuesday, December 4, 2012
The Fergus Falls school board must decide whether to put the referendum to improve outdoor physical education and athletic facilities that didn’t pass in the last election before the voters again, change it or drop it. About 30 turned out for public meeting Monday to give their input.
“I think we should go again,” said Tria Mann, a parent supporting putting the referendum on the ballot again for voters. “46 percent was a good showing in a busy election. I think it would be excellent for our community and safer for our kids to be able to walk to sports. I’d like to see it.”
“I voted no. I heard the words football stadium, and to me that means big dollars,” said Doug Hansen. “The cost versus the benefit was just not there.”
Hansen suggested that the safety issues could be better explained, and that perhaps the project is too big and too expensive for people to take in all at once.
“The bleachers are not handicap accessible, and there are chunks of cement falling off underside where there are concession workers,” said Superintendent Jerry Ness, explaining some of the safety issues.
“We’ve had stress fractures because of the condition of the field for soccer,” said Karoline Gustafson, girls’ soccer coach. “Any time you can get a sprinkler system in the ground for soccer it’s helpful to avoid injuries from falls, especially with female athletes.”
Sports issues included playing on fields that are not regulation size, such as the softball fields, and having a track without enough lanes to hold regional or sectional meets. Football was a big issue for the crowd.
“The soil is really bad where the existing football field is, and it is not appropriate to support a large bleacher system,” said Ness. “The site would be reconstructed to make it more efficient.”
Ness explained that the football field was sited wrong initially, causing people in the bleachers to be facing the sun. A north-south configuration is more typical. There is also a problem with the area flooding. Dirt from excavation of the new football field would be relocated to the practice fields to help with drainage.
“Who cares about soils and sunlight, I played there and I loved it,” said Eric Berger. “There is an emotional attachment to where the field is now. It’s where it was when I went to school and it’s hard to let go of.”
Berger suggested getting people involved that had a strong connection to the football field in the past — they might want to donate to improvements or have ideas on honoring the past.
Other comments included getting the word out better to the voters, perhaps with a survey, re-evaluating the size of the project, or separating improvements at Kennedy, Roosevelt and Cleveland into separate referenda.
Since the issue did not pass in the last election, the project scope and cost would have to change, and cost decrease at least five percent, to be eligible to go to the voters within six months of Nov. 6. After six months, the project could go before voters again without changing.
“It seems like there is some consensus that we should go out again,” said Ness at the conclusion of the meeting. “We are looking at the end of March to put this out to voters.”