Plans to replace the track at Russell High School are forging ahead amid concerns about damage to the existing oval, even though the project would cost around $500,000.
Not replacing it raises serious problems, including liability if anyone is injured on the buckled surface, school board members learned Monday.
A big chunk of the cost would come from removing fill material that was used in the 1990s when a section of the track was relocated; the slag that was used absorbs water and swells, cracking the surface in a process that can’t be reversed or stopped.
Removal of the fill, which was used to depths of up to 28 feet, would cost anywhere between $425,000 and $465,000 based on contractor estimates, district finance officer Dennis Chambers said.
However, the district has workers capable of doing the removal, and if the job were done in house it would cost about $150,000, Chambers said. State regulations require that district workers would have to be paid prevailing wage for the task, he said.
Chambers didn’t have formal estimates on a new track but said a track with the synthetic surface that is the modern standard would cost roughly $300,000.
He said he had sought estimates for excavating the fill to just a few feet below the surface, but experts told him it wouldn’t solve the problem.
The district has ample fill dirt stashed on its property to replace what is removed, but the removal project would have to include creating retention ponds to forestall runoff and drainage problems, Chambers said.
The board authorized Chambers to file preliminary paperwork with the state and hire engineers and architects as needed to start planning the project.
Doing so does not commit the district to actually going through with the replacement, an important distinction because money is tight and state regulations prohibit use of school construction money for athletic purposes.
If it does replace the track, some of the money may come from the district’s contingency fund and the district may also have to borrow money.
The damaged track is a matter of some urgency because after hours it is open to the public, and board members said they are concerned about liability in the case of injuries. “We’re getting real close to having to shut it off from the public,” board member Sean Whitt said.
The track team already has quit using it for meets.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.