KINGSPORT - The Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen declined to approve a request from the Board of Education this week to move $875,000 into a new account for the possible construction of a baseball field house.
The reason: City leaders wanted more information on the proposed project. However, this action could delay the project by two to three weeks, school officials said.
The request from the school board involved moving $875,000 from the Central Office renovation fund to the Dobyns-Bennett renovation fund. The money was part of $1.8 million in capital funds the BMA bonded back in December.
The field house project was also one of four possible projects the BOE listed during last April's budget presentation to the BMA and has been discussed within the school system for several years.
The proposal calls for the construction of a 6,400-square-foot building in the corner of J. Fred Johnson Stadium near Indian Court and similar to the building at the other end of the stadium near the Dobyns-Bennett High School parking lot.
The school system plans to use the one-story building to store maintenance equipment, have room for the D-B baseball team locker room, public restrooms for visiting teams, and serve as a concession stand for stadium events including Fun Fest. The school system already owns the brick for the building, which was purchased at the same time the other building was being built.
Plans also call for the removal of the existing concession stand near the scoreboard.
School officials expect to receive the bids for the building on March 14 and were planning to vote on whether to accept any of the bids at the BOE meeting on March 15. If approved, the matter would have been placed on the BMA's regular agenda on March 20. Funds for the building have to be in place before the BOE can accept the bids.
Director of Schools Richard Kitzmiller said the school system was trying to get the building substantially complete by Fun Fest and entirely built by this fall's football season.
"We were (making the request) to optimize the timeline. There are still ways around it where it could be salvaged, but if we follow the traditional timeline it may cost us two or three weeks," Kitzmiller said, calling the BOE request a formality. "The real vote, if there is one, would have been two weeks from now. All our request was to take existing money that's already in the bank and instead of calling it a Central Office account, call it a stadium building account or something like that."
In December, the BMA approved a $24.5 million bond issuance, of which $1.8 million was earmarked for the school system for capital projects. The list of potential projects outlined in April included the baseball field house, a new Central Office, a Central Office renovation and realigning the D-B parking lot.
"We talked about it in a very public way, and it was showed in April when we made our budget presentation," Kitzmiller said.
School officials say by doing the baseball field house, a new Central Office or renovating the old health department building into a new Central Office would be on hold.
During Tuesday's BMA meeting, some city leaders questioned school officials about the proposed building, its cost and size, a timetable for the project, and future plans for the stadium.
Alderman Ken Marsh said the cost for the proposed baseball field house is "way out of the ballpark."
"I have no comfort at all that the public is getting value for their money," Marsh said.
Aldermen Pat Shull and Ben Mallicote said the BOE should come forward with more information about the building.
Mayor Dennis Phillips suggested passing the request on first reading, with the understanding the BOE would return in two weeks with more information about the project.
Vice Mayor Larry Munsey said he understood the concerns but warned his fellow BMA members about the message delaying the vote sent to the BOE.
"If you look at the working relationship (between the BMA and BOE), I think (Phillips') suggestion sends a better message," Munsey said.
Marsh said the message he wants to send is for the school system to not come without enough information to make the BMA comfortable.