By Mac McLeod,
That old saying of “where there’s a will, there’s a way” got a workout this past week and activity picked up concerning a new sports facility at Livingston Academy.
In this case, the “will” was Overton County School Board building committee chairman Mike Hayes hoping to find the funds to build a complete complex at Livingston Academy that would accommodate not only football, but track and field, wrestling, Junior Wildcats action, and Outlaws.
Once all the options were on the table, Hayes went to work to find the “way” and at last Tuesday’s regular monthly school board meeting, he presented his program and got the full support of the School Board to take the proposal to the County Commission’s budget committee.
Hayes admitted, “It won’t be an easy sell, but I truly believe that when the entire thing is laid out, a lot of those who might have reservations, may change their minds. I’ll have to do a good selling job, and I will give it my very best.”
For almost two years now, Hayes has worked with architects and engineers to come up with a plan and a cost estimate to replace the deteriorating home and visitor stands and restrooms at the old Tom Davis Memorial Stadium.
First estimates and drawings came back with a cost of $4.7 million to remove the current stands, build new ones made of aluminum, bring the entire facility up to code including restrooms and handicap ramps and parking. Back last fall, the Board unanimously approved the plan, then suddenly, additions were being brought up, including a track and possibly an artificial turf.
A revamp of the current facility showed that there was not enough room for a track at the current location so plans B and C came into being. Plan B called for a purchase of some adjoining land, move the current field slightly south and turned about 40 degrees. That would allow room for a track, but it also raised the price tag a couple million.
Plan C called for a land purchase behind the current softball field and an entirely new facility be built that would include everything from a paved path from current parking lot to visiting dressing rooms, bus parking, etc.
The price tag was $8.9 million.
With two bonds still outstanding on the school system, this plan seemed almost out of the picture, but Hayes worked with Overton County Budget Director Connie York and County Executive Ben Danner and came up with a plan.
“First and foremost, let me say this plan does not call for any county monies, and no new taxes will have to be raised,” he stated. “We call this our 10-year plan and here’s how it will work. Instead of taking the $4.7 million out of the fund balance as was in the original plan, we will borrow $8.9 million and for the first five years pay back the money in pieces instead of in a lump sum.
“After the first five years, 2025, our first bond, will be paid off, so instead of paying $1.2 million a year as we currently do, it will drop to $780,000, saving $400 each year. At the end of the five years, the fund balance will be around $5 million, but with the history of some $570 adding to the fund each year, it would climb to some $21 million in 10 years.”
School Board member Larry Looper asked what if there were some major building requirements during the period.
In his answer, Hayes pointed out that the school system has a self-funding upgrades/needs fund for over 10 years, the wheel tax, which generates some $700 per year for long term building plans, and added that when the current bonds are paid off, in some 7 years, the borrowing ability for the county will be some $21 million, seven of which could go to additional classrooms at Rickman and $14 million for additional needs across the county.
“What we are asking for,” Hayes concluded, “is to utilize our fund balance for the next five years to make payments on a new facility from a new 12-year bond. Then, after 5-10 years, new building program for additional add-ons will be affordable to self-support as they are today through additional bonds.”
Hayes then asked the School Board for permission to go before the October meeting of the County Commission budget committee to state his case. The Board unanimously voted to allow Hayes to proceed. Now he must go before the budget committee and get at least three of five votes to move on to the full County Commission for approval.