Leader Blues

Friday, December 12, 2008

TOP STORY > >Sports complex given funding without bids

Leader staff writer

The Sherwood City Council in special session Wednesday voted to forego competitive bidding on ballpark renovations at Sylvan Hills Sports Complex that are projected to cost the city $250,000. Only Alderman Butch Davis opposed the measure, which passed 5-1.

The money will be spent to rotate Legion Field so that the sun no longer glares directly into the eyes of the batter, catcher, and umpire. Since the field opened in 1990, the poor design has long been considered a safety hazard by many. Funds will also be used for repairs after an April 3 tornado put the field out of commission.

The storm demolished bleachers, fencing, light fixtures and the scoreboard. Debris scarred the playing field.

Funds will be drawn from the city’s $900,000 reserves to pay for the work.

At the special session Parks and Recreation director, Sonny Janssentold the council that with ball practice starting up in February, time had run out for competitive bidding for the job, which he said would take 15 days.

Janssen said he is ready to let Penaprime, a Maumelle company, do the work because it has shown an interest.

Janssen said he never let the job for bid. He called around to contractors for estimates and found that either they were too busy or their prices were “astronomical.”

City workers have done as much of the grading work as possible, but it is time to call in a professional, Janssen said.

“They’ll be able to level it off, fine tune it, lay sod on top for a nice beautiful field,” Janssen said.

Costs include $50,000 for drainage, $20,000 for topsoil, $30,000 for sod, $10,000 for a chain-link fence, $75,000 for grading and $15,000 for a scoreboard. Pepsi will contribute to the cost of the scoreboard.

A donation from the Optimist Club and volunteer labor will save the city almost $30,000 in erection of the outfield wall.

Alderman Becki Vassar, who was on the council when the ball park was built, remembered the consternation felt then when the mistake in design was realized.

“When we discovered what happened, we were in a panic – ‘what do we do now?’ – but were in a hurry to open it and always meant to fix it later,” Vassar said.

“I have been concerned all these years that someone would get hurt. This is doing what is right for the children and the city,” she added.

Other long-time council members said it was the first they heard of the risk associated with the ball field design.
“I had several parents call me this week,” Sheila Sulcer said. “I didn’t ever realize it was a safety hazard. Maybe it is because I have girls.”

Alleviating the problem will make life easier for families participating in leagues. Ball games at Legion Field had to be scheduled late in the day to avoid the glare from the sun, pushing games late into the evening.

“Games were starting at 9 or after, and kids have to get up and go to school the next day,” Janssen said.

Butch Davis said that he agreed the work was necessary but given the condition of the economy, the city should let the project. He would rather see such a large sum spent otherwise.

“I know it needs to be done, but this is wrong timing; we need to wait another year and see how things pan out,” Davis said. “I would rather see this money spent on the (city) employees.”