Rumors about work being done at the Vilonia High School football field have picked up speed over the summer. Yet, progress is continuing according to school officials, and they anticipate playing the first football game of the season there on newly laid synthetic turf.
Dr. Frank Mitchell, school superintendent, explained to the board that rumors are active in the city concerning the work being done at the football field. A smile on his face, he said, the rumors include that a major backer for the artificial turf project has pulled out. As well, he said, there are rumors flying that natural gas has been discovered on the football field and that a couple of wells are going to be located there. Mitchell said another rumor is floating around that the new artificial turf is making students sick. All of the above, he said, are untrue.
"If the turf is going to make kids sick, there’s going to be a lot of sick kids around here," Mitchell said, adding that the same type of turf is on or being installed on football fields around the country including at Conway and Greenbrier.
Updating on the fundraising and progress of the project, Matt Sewell, athletic director and director of student services, who is vacating his position Sept. 1, told the board that about $458,000 has already been raised to place artificial turf on the football field and to renovate the track.
"We aren’t quite at our mark," Sewell said, adding that he believes it will be met. Fliers have been sent out to patrons districtwide and there are hopes to raise the additional money. It was originally said that the project to place artificial turf and to renovate the track may cost up to $650,000.
As far as the actual work, Sewell said there have been several setbacks throughout the summer with most being resolved including "bad spots in the soil." If the weather stays fit, he said, the "turf drop date" is set for Friday.
"We will play Sept. 3 on this field," Sewell said. "I hope."
Danny Lawrence, school board president, followed up by saying, "I hope so, too. There’s a lot of fans that want to see the new field."
Addressing other rumors, it was also said a $100,000 donation from Centennial Bank has been made and the field is still to be named Centennial Bank Field. It was also said a lighted sign will be placed at the entrance soon displaying the name.
His update complete, Sewell joked briefly with school board members, leaving the audience with no inclination of what was to come following the business portion of the meeting.
Following an executive session, the board accepted the resignation of Sewell. It was said that Sewell will be going into the insurance business.
"He wants to spend more time with his daughter," Mitchell said. "Whether it is a good decision or not is not for me to really say. But, I kind of admire him for doing it. He has done a good job here. I hate to lose him. He is not only a good administrator, he’s a good person."
In other business:
• The board, Monday night, approved spending $15,000 to put in a new French drain replacing the old one installed several years ago on the field. Lloyd Kelley, the school’s maintenance manager, said the work will be difficult. Yet, he said it is necessary. The current drain, he said, is not sufficient to take care of the field drainage leaving the north end of the field wet at all the times. The company, approved by the council, to do the work is Garrett Plumbing of Vilonia.
• Agreed to sign a lease and agreement with the city of Vilonia for 10 years concerning the tennis court facility. The lease agreement will allow the city to apply for a $15,000 Rural Community Development Grant with the idea of installing lights on the court, Mitchell explained. The agreement allows the residents of Vilonia to continue to use the facility when the school is not using it. The school district, under the agreement, and the city will provide the required "match" money for the grant. The district will continue to handle the primary maintenance responsibilities with assistance from the city on an "as needed" basis.
During discussion, Mitchell said he may have run into a roadblock already concerning the lighting project. A recent estimate for the work, he said, showed it will cost about $60,000. Mitchell said when he received an estimate a couple of years ago, it was going to cost only about $30,000. He also talked about cracks in the court that need to be repaired.
"I don’t know right now," Mitchell said. "I hope we can go forward on this project."
He also talked about the possibility of applying for some other grants that may not require matching funds.
• Approved a transfer request for a student to attend the Searcy School District.
• Approved bread (Interstate) and milk bids (Coleman) for the cafeteria.
• Approved renewing the group life insurance plan with USAble Life and the dental plan with Delta Dental.
• Approved a new daycare payment procedure that will include $2 a day late fees after delinquent payments for 10 days. Also, the payment procedure details that failure to pay could also result in suspension of services.