Football field project sparks controversy with school board

Friday, June 21, 2019

School Board members found disagreement on the right way forward with a project to upgrade Alta’s football field, citing issues with whether the school should spend over $12,000 on a project that would be a start to primarily enhance the safety of the field with upgraded lighting

“I have an issue with putting this kind of money into a facility we don’t own,” said Board member Nicky Sleezer. “If the city is upgrading wiring to be underground, why aren’t they paying for the facility they own?”

The football field, owned by the City of Alta, is subject to a sharing agreement with the school district for activities.

Previous presentations from Randy Tilk, Alta Municipal Utility manager, proposed to bury the primary wires from their existing switch pole to the north side of the track, putting in a transformer there. Anything from that point to the system’s disconnect, 200 amp breakers to handle lighting on each side, would be at the school’s expense.

The municipal utility agreed to absorb the cost of directional boring, estimated at about $9,000 per foot. Tilk estimated total costs for the utility would be about $11,500 to $12,500 for conduits, lights, a transformer and other costs.

The district started looking into the project as a safety measure. Current electrical lines with lights run through a transformer at each end of the field that feeds them into each bank of lights. The transformer has fallen down, more than once.

To see 2400 volts of electricity drop down on a crowd sitting on aluminum bleachers during a game, “isn’t something you’d want to see happen,” Tilk told the Board in May. “The safety issue here is the biggest thing.”

Sleezer and Jon Turnquist objected to the idea of spending school money on infrastructure for a field they don’t own.

“The tough decision is whether we want to play football there anymore. That’s the honest truth,” said Turnquist.

By the time everything is said and done, the school will be putting about $75,000 into the project, Superintendent Lynn Evans said.

“We already own another place,” Turnquist said, referring to their facilities in Aurelia, which he said are better. He said for the amount of use the field gets, it was not worth investing in.

Other members disagreed, saying the improvement had been put off too long, at the safety risk of those using the field—a liability which would fall on the school, not the city, if something were to happen.

“I get it—if you’re a renter, you don’t improve the house,” said Board member Jen Kaskey. “But something has to be done.”

Like it or not, the wires will still hang there, even during times of limited use, she pointed out.

“If we’re going to use it for anything at all, we need to deal with this sooner rather than later with wires hanging,” she said. “Once it’s been brought to the attention of the board, we have to take action.”

The Board tabled the project, which was tentatively scheduled to start by July 1 in order to be finished before football season, to better discuss the concerns surrounding the investment, safety issues and the direction the district would like to take.