Franklin board agrees to move ahead with plans for new field

The Franklin High School athletic complex will be getting a new field after the completion of the 2021 football season.

Franklin School Board members, after an extensive discussion Monday evening about the merits of end zone coloring and embellishments like field lettering, agreed to pursue a new field at a cost not to exceed $400,000.

That figure is $4,000 more than what the field had initially been estimated to cost.

Board member Andy Boland, who chairs the panel’s operations committee, agreed with past declarations from board president Brian Spaid and buildings and grounds manager Leon Billingsley that the field must be replaced at the conclusion of fall sports later this year.

“If you look down on the field the impact layer (under the turf) is gone,” Boland said. “The turf, we have to do.”

Billingsley had said at the board’s meeting last week he wanted board approval sooner rather than later so the work could be scheduled as soon as possible to avoid waiting another season.

With Boland’s go-ahead, the board then entered a discussion about what they would like the field to actually look like.

The initial estimate, according to Billingsley, included red or black colored end zones and a Franklin Knights emblem in the field, but did not include extra lettering such as the word “Knights” to be written in the end zones.

“It was described as ‘not too much bling, but a little bling’ to me,” Billingsley joked.

Spaid said he didn’t agree with any lettering in the end zones because it might cause distractions to other athletes who utilize the field, such as soccer players.

Board member Misty Nalepa said she didn’t agree with anything that would cause the district to pay more for the field than had been discussed, something board member Major Smith and Boland also agreed with.

Smith said he would like the field to be “all green.”

Boland said, “The money for the extra lettering would pay for the broken (air conditioners) at Sandycreek (Elementary). We have to replace the turf, but we don’t have to pay for these extras. I’m not going to cancel projects for letters.”

Board members agreed but said they liked the look of the “more blinged out” fields Billingsley provided from one of the companies he spoke to about replacing the field. They also agreed that colored end zones without lettering would look “weird.”

Ultimately, board members agreed to allow Billingsley to move forward with the bidding process “with no designation about end zones or extras except for an emblem in the middle” of the field.

Before discussing the field, Boland offered the board an update on discussion that was held at last week’s meeting surrounding what the board might be able to do with an estimated $6.25 million in Federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.

Spaid said at that meeting funds could be shifted in a way to allow the district to pay for several capital projects that have been looming on the horizon for some time, like adding air conditioning to the middle school.

Boland, however, said there are “some existing items we need to dig into a little more” before the committee is ready to present projects to the full board for approval. He said there are underlying projects that might make adding air conditioning, specifically, an uphill battle.

“The AC is nice, but we keep running into other projects,” Boland said as he mentioned an air handler at Central Elementary that could be replaced and existing windows in the entire high school building that might make a new AC unit in the middle school a redundant endeavor.

Boland said a contractor they had spoken with about the project pointed out that the windows had been installed around 1960 and not replaced since. The contractor also talked about installing a unit with a heat pump that could heat the area at temperatures above 32 degrees.

That would allow the boilers that run the middle school to remain off once they are turned off in the spring.

The heat pump option, Boland said, comes with its fair share of costs though, including higher electric usage and more maintenance.

“We have to talk about what’s going to become the absolute need versus wants,” Boland said.

To accomplish that, committee members agreed to add another meeting to their schedule for May 4 at 6 p.m. in the high school library to further discuss how best to utilize the district’s money in regards to capital projects.

In other business Monday, the board approved the following:

– Capital fund projects totaling $140,000 to take place at all schools. Those items will be put out for bid and accepted by the board as they come in.

– The United Way Success By Six program to be held for up to 20 incoming district kindergartners from June 14 to July 22.

– A Summer Academy offered through the district for students in grades 3 through 8 from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. June 14 through Aug. 13. The program will be run by teachers and AmeriCorps members and will focus on academic skill development in reading, mathematics and written expression.

– A separate salary scale for non-bargaining district employees who are awarded supplemental contracts under the agreement between the Franklin Area Education Association and the district.