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Hays CISD trustees discuss astroturf, portable restroom for $4.4M complex

An artificial turf playing surface could be a reality at Hays High’s new baseball and softball complex, but not without a handful of potential caveats. 

Discussion on the matter, which resurfaced during a non-action item at Monday’s board of trustees meeting, continued a growing debate over equity in the district, along with talk of academics versus athletics.

Carter Scherff, Hays CISD chief operation officer, said to provide turf within the facility’s $4.4 million budget, the district would have to eliminate concession stands at the complex, which were in the original design. Hays CISD would also have to cut seating at the baseball field by 600, along with purchasing a $40,000 portable restroom.

Betsy Russell, Hays CISD director of student activities, said district officials “went back to the drawing board” with the complex after learning of the new budget.

The Facilities and Bond Oversight Committee (FBOC) set the budget in December, which opted to use savings from Proposition 2 of the 2017 bond to increase the budget for the fields. However, the FBOC’s recommendation didn’t specify which field surface the district should have.

Hays CISD originally designed the softball and baseball complex for $3.6 million, which was approved by the voters in the May 2017 bond.

Russell said the district brainstormed about what it could get with the updated budget.

Part of the discussion extended to money the district puts into maintaining its grass playing surfaces. Russell said the district spends $5,000 to $10,000 per year on preparing its grass surfaces.

Russell said turf fields could have a longevity of 10 to 15 years; the agreement the district could have with its artificial turf vendor would cover wear. Talks also centered on equity among the high schools. Johnson High, which will open in 2019, will have artificial turf fields.

Russell said Lehman coaches supported artificial turf at their fields, and came away “with the understanding” they could be next in line to possibly be included in a potential 2019 bond.

Hays CISD Superintendent Eric Wright said he was informed Hays’ baseball and softball coaching staff preferred having turf, rather than a permanent restroom facility.

Wright said if the district was going to put artificial turf at Johnson, the district should then put it at Hays and then Lehman.

The original plans for the new complex included 1,000 seats in the baseball field and 600 in the softball field.

“If you’re going to change your mind in two years and decide you want to tear out the grass you put in, you’re going to waste $1.2 million in which to do so,” Wright said.

But several trustees  were concerned about over the proposed compromise.

Teresa Tobias, trustee at-large, worried about equity among the three high schools, and how the district is prioritizing things. She also was concerned about the portable restrooms at Hays’ new complex.

Trustee at-large Vanessa Petrea said she sees the district “kicking the can down the road” for future expenses at the complex. Petrea also believed the district’s new plan “usurped the authority” of the FBOC. 

During public forum, two members of the district’s FBOC voiced frustration, claiming Hays CISD didn’t take the committee’s recommendation seriously.

Petrea said she supports turf as it would keep students from maintaining the grass fields, which currently takes place. However, she expressed surprise at the district’s new outcome.

“While I like the idea of a compromise, I feel we already have a lot of mistrust by community on what we’re doing with our funds,” Petrea said. “I feel like we need to be careful how we pay for this eventual, permanent facility.”

Esperanza Orosco, District 5 trustee, said it was important for the district to “stick to our word” on bond language, which specified a grass field.

“For me, academics come first. We’re belaboring this so much, instead of focusing on academics,” Orosco said. “I have a big problem with that. And I have a big problem without keeping our word.”

Wright said the district, however, must be decisive on what its next action is on the stadium.

“You don’t want to bring up items over and over to the board. It’s just going to be a matter of who doesn’t get their way and keep coming and it’s going to end. You have to be decisive,” Wright said.

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