As most of you know, there has been a controversy about the Rock Hill school board's decision to approve artificial turf for the District Three Stadium. I'm always concerned when members of the community disagree with the decisions made by the board or the district administration. It's truly important to me that you are knowledgeable as to why decisions are made. I am, therefore, providing you with the following information with the hope that you will be better informed with the facts about this issue.
The question presented to the board on Sept. 24 was not, "If you had $750,000 in surplus money to spend, what would be your priority?" The question was, "Can we save our taxpayers money by installing artificial turf in the District Three Stadium?"
Each year, we spend approximately $65,000 maintaining natural grass in the stadium. Although our maintenance staff does an outstanding job of maintaining the field, it is used three to four nights a week (38 times last year within 3 1/2 months). Grass cannot hold up to such extensive use without being patched or replaced over a 10-year period at a cost of more than $400,000, bringing the 10-year cost of natural grass to an estimated $1,050,000. It is impossible to keep it maintained at a level anywhere close to artificial turf without spending a great deal more than we currently spend. By comparison, the 10-year cost for synthetic turf is less than $790,000, or more than $250,000 less than we spend to maintain natural grass over the same time period.
We continue to look for ways to be more efficient and effective. We recommended installing artificial turf as a means of getting "more bang for the buck." Although this decision was based purely on economics, there are some additional benefits:
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• Instead of limiting the use of the field, we can expand the use of the facility for students.
• We can provide a safer field for our players by providing a consistent surface. Currently, late in the season, the field becomes rutted and, during a typical year, the field becomes muddy.
• We have the possibility to generate new revenue streams by using the field on a year-round basis.
• It would improve one of our facilities that has been the centerpiece for our athletic community for a number of years.
The term surplus denotes extra money. This is not extra money; it is simply the difference in what we budgeted and what we actually spent. It should be spent only on one-time expenses or to increase our fund balance for emergencies. It simply cannot be used for additional teachers or more academic programs, both of which are recurring costs.
Our school board members want to make the right decision for the people they represent. However, due to limited communication, a decision can be perceived as wrong. The decision made on Sept. 24 is sound business, but we failed to explain the decision adequately to our employees and to our community. We apologize for any frustration or misunderstanding. We will work harder in the future to provide information earlier in the process. Please know that we value and appreciate your support and want to be good stewards of everyone's tax dollars.
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