At Monday's BOE meeting there was a fitting conclusion to the partnership with Crossland Construction

In October 2008 the Augusta USD 402 Board of Education gave the nod to Crossland Construction for management of projects from the $48 million bond issue approved by voters earlier that year. Now five years later, the projects are complete with only a few items left on a punch list.

At Monday's BOE meeting there was a fitting conclusion to the partnership with Crossland President Bennie Crossland presented a generous $25,000 donation to USD 402.

"We have fallen in love with Augusta. It's been a great partnership and we believe in giving back to the community," he stated.

He advised that Crossland Construction is a family business operated by six brothers and taking care of communities and school districts is a top priority.

"Mr. Black said that the funds could go to the Augusta Community Foundation for scholarships - or where you see fit."

New business

In new business, the board approved 7-0, the purchase of a new 72 passenger school bus. Three bids were submitted and the board accepted the low bid of $84,799 from Allied Bus Sales, International from Nixa, Mo.

Superintendent Dr. John Black advised the board that new bus would be replacing #7 bus, which will not be kept in the district fleet, but would possibly sold.

"We are allowed to run buses for 25 years, and this one is close to the 25 year range and has had some problems. It's been four years since the district has purchased a new bus," Dr. Black said.

Delivery on the new bus will be approximately 120 days.

Also approved 7-0 was a band trip in March to Kansas City for the Augusta High School Band. Estimated cost for each student will be $170 and fundraising activities will begin soon.

The trip will include the band marching in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Kansas City and also participating in a Concert Band Clinic at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

Unsafe baseball field

The agenda item drawing the most discussion was a recommendation and proposal by a sub-committee of the Construction Committee concerning the infield replacement at the Rodney Wheeler Baseball Stadium.

Augusta Athletic Director Doug Law and Doug Jefferson, AHS baseball coach, were present at the meeting to address concerns and answer questions pertaining to the $300,071 proposal.

"We've gotten to the point where we were with the football field several years ago. We'd like to have artificial turf for all the same reasons we have it at the football field," Law continued, "How did it happen? How did we let it happen? The drought and water restrictions have put us there. We didn't have adequate resources to maintain it. It looks poorly on the community and most of all, it isn't safe."

Board member Blank spoke up, "It will be a substantial expense to the community that can't afford it."

BOE member Andy Hall said, "The City killed us with water restrictions. It killed the grass and the field."

"That field was built by private dollars and was entrusted to us to maintain. We have failed," Board President Bill Rinkenbaugh said.

Law added, "The field has been in bad shape for some time. It's no surprise. We limped through the 2013 season hoping to address it before the 2014 season. We have a small window of time to do something."

BOE member Kim Braungardt asked, "If this recommendation doesn't pass and the field isn't safe, what other measures are there? I have a hard time believing this is the only option."

Law explained that new grass could be put in at a substantial cost, but with water restrictions there would be no assurance of maintenance.

Board member Jim Brown expressed concerns, "There are differences between the baseball field and the football field. The baseball field is used for a short time and the football field is used for multiple things...We just don't know what the State is going to do with funding. I'm just concerned."

Rinkenbaugh stressed again that the field's surface is not safe and coach Rick Hess had advised him that injuries are highly possible. "We could replace with grass, replace the sprinkler system, level the ground and spend well between $100,000 and $150,000 to get it back to where it was in 1988, and still have no one or the equipment to maintain it. It's bad. It's embarrassing."

Braungardt responded, "No one disagrees that it's in bad shape. I'd like to know how and what are other districts doing."

Blank added that he'd like to see some other options.

Board member Bob McCalla explained, "We don't have a good handle on Capital Outlay expenses. We're trying to work with Crossland on what's left of the construction money. We have several different avenues to go back into Capital Outlay. We have building monies left over. We also collect tax dollars each year, but we'll need a separate meeting to discuss these avenues. We've got other problems besides the baseball field. I suggest we get together to consider alternatives," he continued, "When you get familiar with school funds, you realize we operate two different funds. We can't move Capital Outlay dollars to pay teachers...we can't make any decision tonight. This isn't just about the baseball field. We have other projects that are still not finished - we're not zeroed out on construction yet. We have the windows at Ewalt, the storage building. We need to discuss all items or we can't do justice. We must develop priorities...the baseball field has developed into a necessity and I have full faith in the Athletic Director's ability, but we need to meet and discuss everything."

Dr. Black advised the board that they would need to get a number from Crossland on the leftover monies.

The board decided to hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23, to discuss the district's Long Range Plan, priorities, and the baseball field proposal.