City, school district dickering over control and cost of new field

All agree that the renovation of the Pete’s Pool football field will provide a top-notch venue for local football, soccer and lacrosse programs.

And all agree that boosters did a fine job of securing grant money that paid for nearly everything.

But there has been serious disagreement between the city of Enumclaw, which owns the field, and the Enumclaw School District, the primary user, when it comes to paying for use of the field.

The  two sides realize a pot of money needs to be generated to pay for regular maintenance of the field and, in perhaps a decade, replacement of the synthetic turf. That future cost is pegged at perhaps $500,000.

The Enumclaw High Hornets are slated to play their first varsity football game in the refurbished stadium the evening of Sept. 2 and, as of last week, the city and school district had not reached any type of use agreement.

The difference of opinion between the two sides was apparent during the Aug. 8 meeting of the Enumclaw City Council. Stepping to the microphone were City Attorney Mike Reynolds, School Board President Chris VanHoof and Superintendent Mike Nelson.

Reynolds noted how the city had looked at a lease agreement that would essentially have turned operations over to the school district, but rejected the idea. It would not be in the city’s best interest, he said, to lose control over such a valuable possession. Reynolds sought advice from the state auditor’s office, which advised against such a move.

Nelson later countered by stating the school district had looked favorably at a 25-year pact that would called for the district taking full responsibility for the venue. The use agreement Reynolds had spelled out earlier  in the evening “gave un uncertainty when it comes to budgeting,” Nelson said. For example, if the district would have to pay $60,000 annually for use of the field, that would create a budget deficit, the superintendent explained. Nelson said the district’s research showed it could hope to generate $45,000 at best by charging other entities for use of the venue.

Nelson said the district wants to pay no more than it would cost to play at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner.

The negotiating process had broken down to the point where the district considered other sites for playing games, VanHoof said.

“The city’s approach doesn’t appear to recognize that the city is outpricing the district,” he said.

“We’ve directed staff to identify alternative sites for our high school if needed,” VanHoof said. “As a board we feel this is a step necessary to control costs to district taxpayers.

“The proposal before you tonight is not feasible for our district.”

But the discussion Aug. 8 apparently eased VanHoof’s concerns, particularly the talk of a short-term agreement that would allow the Hornet football season to progress as expected while final details of a permanent contract are hammered out.

The terms of an agreement between the city and school district were to be discussed again during an Aug. 15 budget workshop at Enumclaw City Hall.

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