Board balks at new field costs

Published 11:52 am Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Not quite ready yet: Despite early progress, work on the Maroon Tide Football Field, work has been stalled for weeks as the construction company awaits payments.

Not quite ready yet: Despite early progress, work on the Maroon Tide Football Field, work has been stalled for weeks as the construction company awaits payments.

The Picayune School Board met for a regular meeting Tuesday evening and got some surprising news from James Bateman, the owner of EnviroTurf, the company renovating the football field.

Bateman asked the board for an additional $119,000 partly because, he said, the soil under the field was no good and had to be firmed up with soil lime. No one on the board was aware that the soil was no good and the board members seemed mildly shocked at the bill, although Bateman said he had mentioned the possible price hike if the soil turned out to be of poor quality.

Board member Frank Ford said, “I gotta tell you when I opened my packet and saw that number I like to about fell out of my chair.”

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The district had agreed to pay $150,000 on the field with the remainder of the field, which was projected to cost somewhere around $800,000, was supposed to come from local contributions to the Maroon Tide Nation Foundation.

Ford reminded Bateman of that agreement.

“We pledged $150,000, and you stated that you’d cover the balance if we did that and we did that,” he said.

Bateman’s contract was with the foundation and, as such, Gerald Patch, the board attorney, said he wasn’t sure if the board owed Bateman anything.

“I think before the school district makes a decision, obviously the school has an interest in seeing that your contract is complied with but the school pledged $150,000 and they paid the $150,000 and so now something’s got to be worked out. I am not saying you’re not owed what you’re saying.”

Bateman said he was not prepared to merely accepted a loss of $119,000, and he told the board his company has not worked on the field in roughly the past three weeks.

The field is scheduled to be used Aug. 23 for the Meet the Tide event.

“We’ve had a board meeting since three weeks ago and we could have talked about it,” said Jimmy Hancock. “All of a sudden we get this and we’re supposed to pay for something that we didn’t authorize. … I am not going to vote for something we didn’t approve.”

Bateman said the work stopped one day after the last meeting. He added that the field is still a good deal for the school district, and he pointed out that the district spent only $150,000 for an $800,000 field.

“We’ve raised over a half-million dollars, and that’s a lot of money for this size of a community,” he said. “I am just trying to get the field built. And I am trying to get it done any way I can. … If you have any other ideas, that’s you guys. I don’t know how this works.”

But while everyone on the board seemed surprised by the request for more money, not all the board members could agree how to move forward. Frank Feeley, in particular, wanted to authorize payment so the work would continue and sort out the details with the foundation later.

But, the majority of board felt it should discuss payment with the foundation first and so, with a split 3 – 2 vote, the board voted to discuss payment with the foundation first.

Later, as the board met in executive session, the Maroon Tide Nation Foundation held a meeting to see if the board of the foundation would agree to reimburse the school district if the district would authorize payment to Bateman.

Bateman said he was confident the board would approve his payment late Tuesday, and he believes the field would be ready by Aug. 23.

“The 23rd is the Meet the Tide and that’s our goal,” he said in an interview. “And we’ll have it playable by then.”