DALLAS — The Dallas School District’s Citizen’s Oversight Committee gave the DSD permission to use $500,000 in maintenance bond resources to rebuild the Dallas High School track.
That permission comes with the requirement that the district seek a judicial ruling on whether the money can be used for that purpose.
The district passed a $17 million facilities and maintenance bond in 2014. Oversight committee members are citizens who volunteer to evaluate proposed projects to make sure they are appropriate for the funding.
The money wouldn’t pay for installing the track surface, but the groundwork needed to raise the track to make it level. The current track has an elevation difference of about 3 feet from end to end.
The Dallas School Board designated $334,000 in non-bond resources to resurface the track when the Dallas Booster Club agreed to pay for installing the turf field.
District officials said raising the track would in part solve a drainage problem that results in water pooling in areas of the stadium complex. Though the bond didn’t identify sports facilities as a use for the money, it did list fixing drainage as a possible project, said Debbie MacLean, the district’s director of fiscal services.
The oversight committee designated $500,000 to go toward drainage in January 2018, according to minutes from that meeting.
Since then, the money was rededicated toward building a career and technical education facility.
On May 21, bids for the track groundwork came in at $884,032 at the lowest and $1.237 million at the highest. That is in addition to resurfacing bids ranging from $218,462 to $295,978.
At the committee’s June 17 meeting, Superintendent Michelle Johnstone requested the committee shift the money back to drainage to help pay for groundwork costs.
“What we would have to do is tighten down what we are doing with this budget,” she said. “I would really love the blessing of (the committee) to say this is money we can set aside. That’s helpful in the conversation.”
Johnstone said the district can use the money for the project and wait to see if anyone protests it against the ballot title, or it can seek an opinion from Oregon’s tax court before moving forward.
If the project was challenged, it would end up in tax court. If the district lost, it would have to pay back the bond money, said Mike Bollman, Dallas School Board member.
Members of the oversight committee felt more comfortable with getting a judge’s opinion before breaking ground.
Oversight committee member Gary Suderman said the district has passed two maintenance bonds, and will need another in the future.
“We’ve had monstrous good fortune with both of these bonds, and the first one was in a crappy time in our economy. We passed them both,” Suderman said. “It’s been great to get that kind of support, and that’s the one thing we’ve always talked about around this table, ‘Is this what we said what we were going to do? Is it 100 percent honest?’ And we have to make sure that is what we are doing here.”
The committee voted unanimously to recommend the district use the $500,000 if the tax court agrees it can be used on the project.
Johnstone said getting the opinion could take up to three months.
Board member Matt Posey said that in the meantime, the district will try to find ways to lower the cost of building the track.
“I think at this point there is some desire from the board to have a gathering of the engineer who designed the track, Greg Locke who helps us out with a lot of projects here at the district, and a couple other folks, myself included, to see if there is some sort of value engineering we can do,” Posey said.
Paul Ward, who is on the Dallas High School’s track coaching staff, said the district needs to build a track that won’t need repair in a few years.
“We went through a miserable year this year because every meet was away from home,” Ward said. “We’ve got great football field. We did a lot of work on that for conditioning. We hardly had any shin splints. In the past we’ve had really serious trouble with shin splints because our track was too hard. The football field is a really nice facility, and you don’t want to screw it up with a crappy track.”
Bollman said the board intends to live up to the promise it made when the Booster Club began raising money for the field.
“We have folks that have sponsored the turf, and we want to get the complex complete so we can start using it,” he said.