PORTLAND - Looking to help train and educate the champion athletes of the future, the Gregory-Portland Independent School District Board of Trustees met on Monday, Feb. 3 to discuss plans to build a $6.5 million middle school athletic complex that would be used for multiple purposes.
Mario Albini, vice president of design and building operations for Hellas Construction, gave an overview of the proposed project and some additional features which could impact the final cost of the facility.
“I can confirm that everything fits within the footprint of the property,” he said, addressing concerns that some of the areas might cross over into areas off property.
The facility would have bleachers seating 400 people on the home side, 400 on the visitors side and portable bleachers at the tennis courts that would seat 50 more people.
“It would also have full LED lights of the field and the track so you will be able to host track meets at night,” Albini said.
Board President Victor Hernandez asked about the cost difference of putting the track inside where field events would take place or outside that area.
“It will actually cost less and be more stabilized if the track is on the outside, plus with the turf, you would have a better drainage system,” Albini said.
With track facilities located at the high school, board Vice President Reynaldo Rojas wondered about the cost.
“Why are we even spending $7 million for this facility,” he asked.
Board Secretary Carrie Gregory noted that daily practices are held there. Some teams might be unable to use the track if other teams needed it for a meet.
The impact of runoff was another question Rojas raised.
“I’m concerned when it rains there will be runoff that will go into the residences nearby,” he said. “I don’t like the fact that we’re not sure.”
Told that the projects architects have said they have addressed the drainage issue, Rojas still expressed concern.
“So will the architects be responsible for flooding?” he said. “No, we will.”
If all concerns are adequately addressed and the board approves the project, board member Tim Flinn asked what the construction timeframe would be.
“Six to seven months,” Albini said.
Superintendent Dr. Paul Clore said with the sustained population growth anticipated within GPISD boundaries, facilities are needed to accommodate the students.
“There are 1,500 more homes that will be built in Portland and a multi-family development in the works in Gregory,” he said.
In addition to the athletic facility, additional classroom space is planned to serve the needs of 1,760 students and staff members.
“That will carry us for a while,” Gregory said.
“Additional developers have visited with the school district about building new houses in the area,” Clore said.
Board member Dean Atkinson Sid board members needed to decide if the district needs a first class field or merely a practice facility.
“I’m not trying to throw a monkey wrench in these plans nor am I saying that I oppose them, but I want us to consider the different options.”
One of the constraints on sending students from the middle school to high school facilities is the difficultly in leaving one campus and traveling to another, said middle school Principal Gabe Alvarado.
“You have to look at it from the money perspective and the time perspective,” he said. “There is going to be some cost benefit to not turning on the full-blown stadium lights at the high school (track facility). Those are expensive to turn on (compared to LED lights at the middle school complex).”
Gregory said the LED lighting would also be a benefit because there would be less light impacting homes in the area.
“The benefit of LED is that it has almost no spillover,” Albini said. “They’ll see lights in the distance, but there won’t be light spillover on their property.”
Board member Randy Eulenfeld spoke of the importance of providing the needed facilities for students.
“We need to prepare for the future,” he added. “More students are coming in, and we need to step forward and this will open up more opportunities and allow more participation.”
Board members also talked about the need to add drainage underneath the turf. That would add about $170,000 to the project.
“It increases the longevity of the turf,” Albini said. “It would also save you money when the turf eventually needs to be replaced, and it lasts a long, long time.”
The board voted 6-1 in favor of the project, with Rojas opposing it.
In other action, the board:
• Discussed the possibility of holding a bond election this spring. The last bond election was approved in 2015. Depending on what priorities the board selects, the bond would be a minimum of $97,407,818 and a maximum of $121,735,490.
Jeff Osborne is editor of the News of San Patricio and the Refugio County Press.