Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 10, 2013

Putnam Stadium project on move

Bleacher phase bids advertised on Monday

Mark Maynard
The Independent

ASHLAND — It may be fourth-and-goal for the Putnam Stadium restoration project, but the game’s not over.

Bids will be advertised on Monday for the bleacher phase, with a pre-bid meeting for contractors scheduled for Thursday at the stadium site. Final bids must be in by March 25, which may be just in time to have everything done for the start of the 2013 Ashland Tomcat football season.

The bid specifically states the project is to be “substantially complete by Aug. 1, 2013.” The Tomcats’ first home game is Aug. 30.

“I’m cautiously relieved,” said Ashland Independent School District Superintendent Steve Gilmore. “I know we have a bottom line of will they assure us we can play that first game.”

It has been a long process to get the project this far. Gilmore has been in daily contact with Frankfort since the school board gave approval for stadium demolition once the bleacher phase of the project was approved.

The contractor was able to advertise for bids after getting a stamp of approval from the Kentucky Department of Education on Friday. The first advertisement for bid legal will appear in The Independent on Monday.

“We’ve been working every day, making contact with Frankfort to move this along,” Gilmore said. “The board will make the final call on how we proceed. We’re going to try to have everything hammered out with whoever submits the bid. We’ll be ready when they open them to assure we’ll be able to get it done.”

Potential bidders have indicated to Gilmore they can complete the project if allowed to start by April 1.

The school board can call a special meeting to approve the bids instead of waiting until the end of the month, Gilmore said.

“As soon as the bids are in, if the board approves, it’s full steam ahead in that regard,” he said. “We’ll have the qualified low bidder to get started the next day (on deconstruction).”

Murphy-Graves, the architects for the stadium project, are doing the work pro bono. Gilmore said the firm has been engaged in the process from the beginning. “They’ve put as much time, concern and personnel in it as possible,” he said. “You couldn’t tell we aren’t paying them for it.”

Gilmore said the education department looks deeply into every aspect of a public project such as a stadium or school facility. It has to hold up to difficult scrutiny.

“It’s not like going to the city and getting a permit,” he said. “Anything of this magnitude is going to take time. This is something we hope will be around for another 75 years.”

Gilmore’s paramount concern since the beginning has been the safety of the stadium for Ashland’s fans, students and players. The Putnam Stadium Restoration Committee has been in place for four years.

“It’s been a very lengthy, tedious process,” Gilmore said. “But you never know how many other things they’re looking at (in Frankfort).”

The district has a $1.3 million budget to work with and wants to make sure it gets bids that keep the total bill within that limit.

The bids to demolish the stadium were between $59,900 and $289,000. However, the contractor who had the lowest bid had asked to withdraw and probably wouldn’t take the job if offered, according to finance director Tim Walters.

The clock is ticking on getting the process started, however. Demolition will take two to three weeks and construction of the bleachers, press box, concession stands, restrooms and locker rooms will take another five months.

Gilmore said he understands the wringing of hands that has been going on since the board announced in October it was going to demolish the stadium and put in new bleachers, press box, concession stands, restrooms and locker rooms as the first phase of a $5 million renovation of the 75-year-old stadium. The rest of the project — included a turf field and new lights — will have to wait until more money is obtained by a fundraising committee.

“I know everybody has been on the edge of their seats,’’ he said. He hopes those seats will soon be maroon-colored bleachers.

The committee has a website, putnamstadium.com, with more about the plan and information about how to contribute.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.