Serving the High Plains

Officials discuss ballpark cost

Tucumcari Public Schools' superintendent and its architect during a board work session last week discussed ways to trim costs associated with the district's ballparks redevelopment plan to the original estimate of $3 million.

Voters in the school district approved a bond issue of about $3 million during a February 2019 special election for the project.

Delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and steep increases in the costs of materials has ballooned the projected cost to at least $4 million, said Steven Alano, president of Greer Stafford Architecture of Albuquerque that is helping the district oversee the project.

District superintendent Aaron McKinney said he already has identified several cost-cutting measures he's fairly sure can reduce the cost to close to the original $3 million.

A changing room for athletes originally was projected to cost $240,000. McKinney said he's identified a metal building that costs only $16,000, and he expressed optimism the total cost of such a structure could be capped at $30,000.

McKinney said the design of the concession stand also can be modified or some work on it delayed to save money.

He also said in some cases, equipment for the ballparks can be bought later.

"These are some of the things I think we can do to cut costs but not quality," McKinney said.

Alano said some of the work can be performed by district employees, thus saving labor costs. He also noted bids can be requested with several cost-saving options, such as chain-link or metal fencing for the diamonds.

Alano pointed out the cost savings shouldn't compromise the improvements sought for the baseball and softball diamonds.

"The idea is to keep as much of the design as possible," he said.

Board President Leif Gray weighed in, noting four foul poles for the diamonds are projected to cost $2,500 each. He wondered whether the district "can weld their own" for the project.

One possible cost savings McKinney wasn't yet willing to commit to was nixing lights for the diamonds. Alano said he's looking to several options for lighting but acknowledged it remained one of the project's pricier aspects, costing a projected $600,000.

McKinney noted several quality high-school baseball fields in New Mexico lack lights. However, at least one board member wished the lighting would be preserved so community ball teams could use the facility at night.

"My plan is to have lighting, but I won't promise it," McKinney said.

McKinney said the Tucumcari High School softball team can use an existing field that will be preserved with the redevelopment. If the project isn't substantially finished by spring, the THS baseball team can play at another nearby field, such as Logan or San Jon, he said.

McKinney said the surveyor is "95% done" in examining the site. Finishing that part of the project was complicated by the fact that Quay County owns some of the land for the diamonds, even though the city owns most of the property.

Once the survey is completed, McKinney said demolition on the existing site and some purchases could commence.

Action from the board's regular meeting that followed the work session:

• During board comments, Heather Gonzales asked whether after-school tutoring would be more available during the upcoming school year. Assistant superintendent Dave Johnson replied he was working on coordinating additional tutoring for TPS students, noting it brings "the best bang for the buck" to improve academic advancement.

Johnson said he initially was having trouble attracting enough district teachers to volunteer for tutoring, noting many are "burned out" from online teaching and other COVID-19 difficulties from the past year. Johnson said if he was unable to get enough district teachers, he would consider Mesalands Community College students or even high-schoolers to tutor elementary students.

• Board member Matthew Pacheco said the district's maintenance staff has praised McKinney for recognizing their importance more compared to other districts, and he praised McKinney in turn.

• The board approved McKinney's use of a personal vehicle to be reimbursed for mileage. McKinney said he would use his pickup truck mostly to haul large pieces of equipment or supplies.

• The board approved an annual resolution stating it will comply with the state's Open Meetings Act.

• Without discussion, the board approved the final readings of two sets of policy advisories.

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