By MARINA WATERS
The softball lighting replacement project at David Crockett High School has been put on hold.
The Washington County Board of Education unanimously rejected the two bids it received for the project at its Sept. 5 meeting after setting aside $150,000 from the school system’s fund balance for the light replacement in November. The two bids for the project came in around $100,000 over the available amount.
“The (facilities) committee looked at bids for the softball lighting,” board member and facilities committee chairman Todd Ganger said. “We had two bids. They came in $100,000 over what we allotted and the other was just under $100,000 of what we had allotted. The committee approved rejecting those bids.”
The school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said the project was fully engineered by Beeson, Lusk and Street, but after soil borings, a technique used to survey soil by taking several shallow cores out of the sediment, the architect discovered the soil was not conducive to simply setting new poles in the ground.
“They found some unsuitable soil,” Patrick said. “So instead of drilling the holes, setting posts and tapping them in, there must be what we call a floating form or an (area) that is actually 8-by-8-by-4 feet deep. Then they bolt the pole to it so that the poles do not fall over. That’s where the expense came from.”
Patrick said from here he plans to explore options on BuyBoard, a site that provides products and services to local governments across the country. Patrick reminded the board that BLS would have to be paid for their engineering work as well.
The Pioneer softball field is currently lit by six poles with mercury vapor lamps, which are outdated and make it hard to find replacement fixtures, Patrick said at a previous meeting. He also said the poles were placed by the Jonesborough Little League over 20 years ago.
At previous meetings, school officials have said the lights created a safety hazard and were outdated, especially in comparison to the neighboring baseball field lights.
“What they have right now is unsafe,” Ganger said at the November meeting when the board set aside the funds for the project. “We need to fix it. The board needs to be proactive. They’re having trouble finding bulbs for them when the lights do go out. Even if it’s the end of the next softball season, we need to get that done. It’s been long overdue. It’s an embarrassment for those girls.”
“The current lights are just not sufficient,” Director of Schools Bill Flanary said to the county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee last year. “More importantly, the boys baseball field is well-lit.”
County officials have also said the lights, if not fixed, could be in violation of Title IX, the civil rights law that requires both male and females are given equitable opportunities to participate in sports.
At the board’s facilities meeting on Sept. 3, board member Chad Fleenor asked about improving the accessibility to the Daniel Boone and David Crockett’s softball fields. Patrick said a plan is in process to make the sidewalks more accessible, though Boone’s walkway would take more in-depth work.