The Jasper City Board of Education held an in-depth work session Monday to learn about necessary pipe repairs and football field upgrades that could occur over the summer.City of Jasper Engineer Joe …
The Jasper City Board of Education held an in-depth work session Monday to learn about necessary pipe repairs and football field upgrades that could occur over the summer.
City of Jasper Engineer Joe Matthews opened up the meeting to discuss a deteriorating pipe that runs under the school system's baseball field along Viking Drive. Matthews said the pipe is causing standing water and issues to the nearby tennis court and football field.
"There's a 72-inch corrugated metal pipe that's there. It's rusted, and it's been there since back in the late '70s. It continues to fail," Matthews said.
Matthews said repair costs, estimated between $500,000 and $600,000, would not include repairing the tennis court, which has cracks running through it from water damage. He said the court would have to be rebuilt to fully resolve those issues.
He said some pipe erosion near the stadium is in need of repair as well.
Since the school board could not take action to move forward with the project during a work session, the proposed pipe work will be on the agenda of the board's next meeting, May 21.
If approved, life expectancy of the pipe repairs would be 50 years, Matthews said.
Following the pipeline discussion, Jasper High School head football Coach Bryan Moore and Athletics Director Jonathan Jordan talked about water and drainage issues with Kiro-Gambrell football field. They said the playing level needs to be resurfaced and replaced with grass or turf soon, in order to keep a dangerous situation from getting worse.
"Water is standing on the crown (middle of the field)," Moore said. "That, to me, does not make sense that water would stand on a sloped area."
Since the field is often wet, Jordan said grass on the field is not growing properly, and it has created an uneven playing surface.
"Anytime there's variations in the surface — whether its asphalt or grass — when water sits there, it's going to make that situation worse," Jordan said. "There are spots where you're walking and your ankle will give a certain way."
Moore said he believes some player injuries from last season could be attributed to the field's condition, and he worries about future concussions or knee injuries due to the poor playing surface.
"When you get into those types of environments, they slip and slide, and more injuries occur," Moore said. "They can't absorb contact the way they would if they were able to stick their foot in the ground and move to avoid a hit."
Both Moore and Jordan encouraged board members to consider resurfacing the field, at a rough cost of $200,000 to $300,000, and then having turf installed. They said benefits of turf include injury prevention, durability, a wide variety of uses and an enhanced perception of what the school board can offer athletes and anyone interested in using the field.
"We think FieldTurf has the most quality product," Moore said. "Mercedes Benz stadium in Atlanta has FieldTurf. The New England Patriots have FieldTurf. To me, that's the best in the business."
Moore said the product's quality rubber helps to absorb the blow for players, and it would have an estimated 12-year life. He said the cost to upkeep a grass playing surface over 12 years would nearly equal the cost of turf, which is estimated to cost between $700,000 to $800,000. In addition, the cost for initial resurfacing would be absorbed back into the total installation cost.
"One way or another, something has to be done, whether it's a natural surface ... or we turf it. For a safe playing surface, we need to do that," Moore said.
Superintendent Dr. Ann Jackson said a professional recently came out to inspect the field and stated his concerns with the playing surface.
"He said this is one of the worst situations he's ever seen," Jackson said.
While no one knows what land conditions are under the surface of the field, Jackson said there could be a number of reasons why water continues to saturate the field, including improperly compacted dirt underneath. Surrounding pipe issues would also play a factor.
Board Chairman Willie Moore said he estimates piping has not been replaced under the baseball field since 1969, and the football field hasn't been resurfaced in over 20 years.
Proposed repairs to the football field are reported to be on next Monday's meeting agenda.
School board member Teresa Sherer asked if a track could be placed around the football field as part of the proposed resurfacing project, but Jackson said that would include even greater work and expansion of the stadium.
Bryan Moore said they have identified other areas of land owned by the school board that could be suitable for a track to benefit the track team.
Willie Moore said the board could explore football field resurfacing and the installation of a track to perhaps receive a discounted package cost.
The work session also included a discussion on having an assistant food services manager at Jasper High School to help accommodate the larger student population. The move would not require hiring additional personnel; rather an existing employee would step into the assistant manger role and receive a pay raise.
Board members will vote on the proposal next Monday.
T.R. Simmons Principal Jonathan Allen briefly spoke to board members at the conclusion of the meeting about ways to combat chronic absenteeism, since absences are a component of the state schools' report card.
At a future meeting, board members may consider lowering the number of parental excused notes allowed each semester. Currently, the school system allows six excused absences through parent notes, and Jackson said Walker County Schools only allows two every nine weeks. Parent notes would not include excused absences with a doctor's note.
"We see a trend. Absenteeism and academic performance go hand in hand. They're counterproductive to one another," Allen said. "If you're present at school, you're going to achieve. The kids that miss a lot are the one's that are struggling."
School board members agreed that incentives should continue to be offered to students having few to no absences.