When the Scotland County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education met this week to discuss the school system’s capital outlay request, one thing was made clear - the recently discovered damage to Pate Stadium had to be repaired quickly.
The stadium damage was first discovered three weeks ago by maintenance workers. Two engineers have since inspected the stadium and determined independently that the main stand, where concrete has shifted drastically, is unsafe for use.
According to school system Superintendent Rick Stout, the estimated $130,000 repair project will take five weeks to complete. Meaning that if the repair work was funded and began in early July, it would be finished at least a week into August — just in time for the beginning of the 2012 football season.
“If the project is not completed by then, you are looking at a tremendous loss in revenue,” said Stout.
Coming off of its first state championship, the Fighting Scots football team is arguably as popular as ever in the community. Any decision that would result in the stadium not being ready for the start of the football season in early September would be equally unpopular, said County Manager Kevin Patterson.
“I’ve lived here for 40 years, and I would like to live here for another 40, so I would not like to be the one who says that we are not repairing the stadium now,” said Patterson.
Patterson’s proposal following that statement during Thursday’s meeting has now been adopted as the county’s working solution to the capital outlay funding predicament.
In Patterson’s plan, the county would add another cent to the already agreed upon 3-cent increase in property taxes, raising the tax to $1.03 per $100 in valuation. That money would be used to immediately fund repairs to the stadium, and to pay for the financing of the remainder of the school system’s capital requests.
In all, the county would borrow $300,000, $130,000 of which would go to the school system to repair the roof at Sycamore Lane school. The rest of the money would be used to fund the repair of a yet-to-be identified county building.
“This arrangement would give (the county) the opportunity to do some much needed repairs, and it would also mean that the school system would not have to hand over (Sycamore Lane school) as collateral for the loan,” said Patterson.
The loan, based on current rates, would be repaid by the county over three years, with an annual payment of $105,000. The financing fee would total approximately $15,000 over the life of the loan.
Patterson said that the county has been putting off repairs to several of its building for “a number of years” because of budget restrictions.
Private alternatives to county funding of the stadium repair were discussed during the meeting, but none gained any traction.
“Was the stadium not built using entirely private contributions?” asked Commissioner John Cooley, pondering whether a similar funding solution might be possible for the repairs.
According to Commissioner Carol McCall, the stadium was funded entirely by private funds, at a total cost of approximately $400,000. Opened in 1979, the main stand seats more than 5,000 spectators.
“I’d certainly hate for us to ask the tax payers for the money to make these repairs,” said Cooley. “It may be time for the people of Scotland County to really show how important the stadium is to them.”
“Funding would be a more palatable solution to the problem,” said McCall.
Stout informed the board that, barring a large single donation, the “extensive” fund raising process would take too long to complete. “And you would be risking a significant amount of revenue.”
While emphasizing the importance of Pate Stadium to the school system and to the community, Stout did not hesitate to name the roof repair at Sycamore Lane as “the first priority” of the school system.
After being asked by Commissioner Joyce McDow if the stadium “had become the school system’s number one priority”, Stout said that it was “very important.” “But the roof at Sycamore Lane is number one. Our job is to educate, first and foremost,” said Stout.
When the damage was first discovered, it was thought that repairs to the stadium might cost as much as $400,000.
“We were very fortunate that the cost was less than that,” said board of commissioners Chairman Bob Davis.