Group targets stadium repairs



September 30, 2015 - 12:00 AM

When it rains it pours — and water flows right into the locker rooms at the Iola football stadium in Riverside Park.
Drainage issues, mold and inadequate dressing rooms were among the issues Citizens Involvement Task Force members addressed at USD 257’s Board of Education meeting Tuesday.
The organization proposed a solution.
CITF/PRIDE member Ryan Sparks said the group would like the board’s permission to raise funds and fix some of these problems.
“We’re not asking for you to take this on,” Sparks said. “Let us fundraise and really find an answer for the drainage problem. With our group we could give the stadium a facelift.”
Sparks said the first thing on the to-do list is find a solution for an ongoing drainage problem.
The group has spoken to a few contractors but haven’t pursued them.
“We don’t want to overstep our bounds,” he said. “We are not asking for your maintenance crews’ time. We would do the work.”
CITF/PRIDE is an organization of volunteers who work together to improve their community. The group has worked on various projects such as painting buildings around town and installing the new Elm Creek Disc Golf Course.
Donna Houser, CITF/PRIDE member, showed school board members pictures of the exterior and interior of the 77-year-old football stadium. The stadium was built as a Works Progress administration (WPA) project in 1938 but it is slowly deteriorating.
“I was shocked at how dirty it is,” Houser said showing slides inside the locker rooms. “It’s inexcusable to have a mess like this.”
Houser noted that mold has grown on the locker room walls.
“I’m appalled that nothing has been done,” she said.
Pictures also depicted water running into locker rooms while it was raining.
The stadium sits lower than the road in Riverside Park and the track around the football field, causing persistent drainage and flooding issues during wet weather.
School board president Tony Leavitt mentioned the newly formed Strategic Planning Committee, which includes community members and district staff. The committee has been formed to seek community input on items like curriculum, programs and facilities within USD 257. He suggested possibly waiting six months to see what the committee came up with.
“In no way shape or form am I naysaying this idea,” Leavitt said. “I’m just thinking about the committee and wondering what they will say. The community could tell us we’re going to play there for another 25 years or they could want new.”
Sparks said he understood but stressed some problems that needed to be addressed immediately.
“The drainage is a continuing problem. It needs to be fixed soon. Delaying would mean we might have to wait a few years and I think it’s already been five years too long,” he said. “We have great success in what we’ve done. If this is a $5,000 to $10,000 project, it will improve it in some way.”
Houser added: “I know how slow things take. Our project could still be two or three years down the road. To have visitors come in and refuse to dress in the locker rooms is unacceptable.”
Superintendent of schools Jack Koehn countered that comment.
It was believed that Santa Fe Trail did not want to dress in the visitors locker room during the game earlier this month due to its condition.
However, Koehn had contacted Santa Fe Trail (USD 434) Superintendent of Schools Steve Pegram via email about not using the dressing room. Pegram said it was the temperature — not the room’s condition — that prompted the team to stay outdoors. Pegram also said neither the coaches nor the athletic director were unhappy with Iola’s facilities.
School board member Dan Willis voiced his concerns on waiting.
“I’m afraid if we put it off for six months it won’t get any better and next football season it will look the same if not worse,” Willis said.
The board granted CITF/PRIDE permission to raise money for the stadium. The group will keep the superintendent and maintenance crew updated on progress and plans.

— The school board approved a new budget for the 2015-16 school year. The district’s projected ad valorem tax levy of 48.475 mills is about one-half mill lower than previously thought. The amended budget takes into account higher-than-expected assessed valuation due to recent construction of the Enbridge pipeline through eastern Kansas.
— The career tech committee met with Marmaton Valley and Humboldt High School about the construction of a joint program. Koehn said everybody involved sees the need for the program in each district. Schools will continue to meet and continue talks with community colleges to further the program.
“With Senate Bill 151 students would be able to take courses at the community college and earn credit,” Koehn said. “This is good for the college, school and student. Everyone wins.”
— Official enrollment for the district is 1,339 students. That is three fewer than last year.
— Sandy Zornes was hired to do point of sales and Jackie Rogers was hired as a substitute bus driver.

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