MUSD eyes $2.5M for track at WR High

Manteca Bulletin - - Front Page - By JA­SON CAMP­BELL

Sierra High School might not be the only cam­pus in Man­teca Uni­fied School District to have an all-weather track af­ter all.

And We­ston Ranch could soon get what they were promised long ago.

Af­ter de­bat­ing the mer­its of in­vest­ing the money into the low-main­te­nance op­tion for the last two years – agree­ing only that some­thing needed to be done to im­prove the safety of the track – the Man­teca Uni­fied Board of Ed­u­ca­tion moved for­ward with a com­pro­mise pro­posal Tues­day night to spend $150,000 to hire an ar­chi­tect to com­plete the de­sign work nec­es­sary for the $2.5 mil­lion im­prove­ment.

Once those plans are in place, the board will take a closer look at its fi­nances – and the po­ten­tial for one­time money from the State of Cal­i­for­nia that is ex­pected to fil­ter in af­ter Gover­nor Jerry Brown’s bud­get is ap­proved on July 1 – and come back to de­ter­mine whether it’s fea­si­ble to go ahead with the full con­struc­tion likely wouldn’t be­gin un­til at least Fe­bru­ary of 2019 at the ear­li­est.

While the de­ci­sion marked the first time that the district has taken steps down the road to­wards in­stalling an ar­ti­fi­cial track on a high school cam­pus since com­plet­ing the plans for We­ston Ranch High School sev­eral years ago and then aban­don­ing them due to lack of fund­ing, the par­tial step to­wards what many in the We­ston Ranch com­mu­nity have long been calling for was seen as vi­tal by some on the board.

Board mem­ber Eric Dun­can, who rep­re­sents We­ston Ranch and has coached both foot­ball and track at the high school, called the pro­posal a “ma­jor ne­ces­sity” in the eyes of the South Stock­ton com­mu­nity. He said that un­less some­thing dras­tic is done the $2.5 mil­lion price tag for over­haul­ing the track and the sta­dium field would be a drop in the bucket to the lit­i­ga­tion costs that the district will in­cur from in­jured ath­letes.

His own son, he noted, ended up hav­ing to red­shirt his fresh­man year of col­lege be­cause of an in­jury that he sus­tained at the school. He noted that while work has been done to im­prove some of the is­sues at the high school cam­pus – like trap­ping the go­phers that are cre­at­ing all of the play­ing field prob­lems that plague the school – there is much more to be done.

The ar­ti­fi­cial track op­tion was the most ex­pen­sive of the three that were sub­mit­ted to the board for their ap­proval – which ranged from a $340,000 op­tion that would have re­placed the play­ing sur­face of the field with Ber­mu­dahy­brid grass and al­le­vi­ated some of the drainage is­sues on the track to a $600,000 op­tion that took fur­ther steps to­wards cor­rect­ing prob­lems with the track and ratch­et­ing up the drainage im­prove­ments.

The lion’s share of the cost for the new track sur­face, ac­cord­ing to Di­rec­tor of Fa­cil­i­ties and Op­er­a­tions Aaron Bow­ers, comes from the ex­ten­sive drainage sys­tem that has to be in­stalled all the way around the track – sim­i­lar to the sys­tem that is cur­rently in-use at Sierra High School and has vir­tu­ally elim­i­nated on-track flood­ing dur­ing rainy sea­sons.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Ja­son Messer re­minded the board that even with the con­tin­gen­cies that are built into the num­bers that were sub­mit­ted to them on Tues­day, those would more ac­cu­rately re­flect price in­creases that are a few months out rather than a few years out thanks to a boom­ing con­struc­tion mar­ket that has raised the price of both ser­vices and ma­te­ri­als and shows no signs of slow­ing down any­time soon.

The $2.5 mil­lion price tag for the We­ston Ranch pro­posal in­cludes con­tin­gen­cies of $200,000 and $195,000 to cover the district for in­creases to both ma­te­ri­als and la­bor if the mar­ket were to rise sharply dur­ing the con­cep­tual phase.

Be­cause one-time money would likely be where the board would find the fund­ing to pay for the mas­sive up­grade, most were hes­i­tant to com­mit to spend­ing money that they dubbed “soft” un­til the district knew for cer­tain the amount that they were go­ing to re­ceive – ru­mored to be around $6 mil­lion. Messer also noted that such an al­lot­ment must be used for a one-time project since any­thing bud­geted over mul­ti­ple years would have to be off­set with cuts for the years that the money is not re­ceived.

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