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Posted: 04/02/14

RCS board seeks bond for
Barnabo Field repairs

Observer Staff Writer
      Romeo Community Schools will soon ask the community to support a no-increase bond to create a new sports stadium.
       Following a two-hour special meeting on March 24, the Board of Education will pursue a $5-7 million bond to renovate Barnabo Field in lieu of partnering with a new sports complex.
       The board voted 6-1 to have administrators prepare the bond for the November 2014 election. Trustee Chris Young was the dissenting vote.
       Athletic sites became a priority in January when Total Soccer and Washington Township presented a sports complex they plan to build at 30 Mile Road east of M-53 on township-owned land. The site includes a recreational center on 13 acres with pools and gyms, while Total Soccer will build a lighted turf field, 21 soccer fields and two indoor fields on 80 acres.
       For the district to join as a partner, it would pay $100,000 a year and sign into a 50-year lease with Washington Township or a 99-year lease with Total Soccer. The district would also have to seek a $2.5 million bond to help build the new facilities.
       With a net annual cost of $165,000, which includes lost revenue from no longer hosting events, board members were not in favor of the partnership.
       "If we do that we're putting our money into someone else's resource and building someone else's business with the money that we were supposed to be stewarding for the kids," said Secretary Joe Fortuna. "Our first responsibility is to our facilities that are falling apart."
       The board also eliminated options like selling property on Mound Road for $1.7 million to fund a new track and turf, or using $900,000 in sinking fund dollars for a new turf field.
       The $5 million bond would be .36 mills and last for 15 years. To have it before voters this November, the district needs to submit it to the state by May.
       Executive Director of Business Services David Massoglia said the bond would be a no-increase millage like the technology and bus bonds since the district has maturing bond debt.
       "If I'm going for a field, that would be my best option," he said.
       With the bond, Barnabo Field renovations could include the following: $1.4 million for a team room, $1.3 million for parking and driveways, $1.1 million for new buildings, $900,000 for synthetic turf, $500,000 for overhead costs, $450,000 for the track and $325,000 for stadium lighting.
       Athletics Director Greg Brynaert said renovating Barnabo Field could lead to opportunities to host competitions and events for additional revenue.
       Board President Ed Sosnoski recommended the district prepare the bond for this year. He said the sinking fund renewal will come before voters in 2015, so he didn't want to place two issues on the same ballot.
       "I feel that this is our best opportunity to get something moving," he said.
       Trustee Sara Murray said asking for a third no-increase bond wasn't ideal, but could support it because it would improve safety for students and possibly bring in new families.
       "It's a step in the right direction," she said.
       Treasurer Gus Demas was leery about approaching residents for another bond, saying he didn't believe the board was elected to solve problems by asking for bonds.
       "I don't think we can go to the well every year and get positive results," he said.
       Young said he would rather see a bond for a new high school campus and field. He also pushed for the bond to be in 2015, saying he didn't believe it would pass in 2014.
       "Our buildings are crumbling, and that is a huge concern to me over athletics," he said.
       Sosnoski said it is a viable option to go for a bond that builds a new high school and field, but believes such an effort would require years to be properly researched.
       "I just think you're going to have a real hard sell on anything above and beyond what we're looking for," he said.

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