EPHRAIM—The South Sanpete School District will put in about $15,000 in cash to help cover cost overruns on the Gunnison Valley High School/ Gunnison City baseball and softball fourplex, well short of the $58,000 Gunnison Mayor Lori Nay requested at a school board meeting last month.
At a follow-up meeting last Wednesday, March 9 at Ephraim Middle School, the school board also agreed to pay $4,300 for a bullpen fence and $3,300 for an entry fence. In addition, the board agreed the school district would install a concrete apron at the north end of the field, a project the district agreed to in previous years but never completed.
In early 2020, Gunnison City was awarded a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for $250,000 for upgrades to the facility, located adjacent to Gunnison Valley High School on school district property. The field is used by both high school teams and the community recreation program.
The grant required a $65,000 match. The school district contributed $20,000 in cash, and subsequently financed substantial in-kind work, making it the largest contributor toward the match. The Gunnison Valley Recreation District, which gets sales tax revenue from the Recreation, Arts and Parks (RAP) tax, and Gunnison City also contributed $20,000 each.
Centerfield City chipped in $5,000 with the understanding that along with improvements at the combination high school-community park in Gunnison, two ball diamonds in Centerfield would be upgraded. The Centerfield improvements are complete.
The problem is that work at the Gunnison ballpark is now $58,000 over budget and Nay was looking for the school district, which owns the facility, to cover the entire amount.
At the school board meeting in February, Nay said that once the project got started, the city found problems it hadn’t anticipated that had to be corrected before moving forward.
For instance, exterior fencing had been damaged by balls being hit into it. Much of it had to be replaced.
A septic tank in front of the concession stand building had to be drained. Apparently, when the building was built in 1981, there were no sewer lines nearby so the septic tank was installed to serve the building.
The other problem, Nay said, was steep inflation in materials costs between when the project started and now, when it is wrapping up.
Nay said Tuesday that the costs that still aren’t fully covered are engineering, replacing the sprinkler system, and the new fencing.
Squire said projects have included renovation and updating the baseball dugouts and backstops; new dugouts on the softball field; and upgrades to the concession building, including restroom improvements, re-roofing, installing new windows, and remodeling the interior.
The district has provided supplies, materials, labor for sprinklers, topsoil for the baseball field, and has replanted grass on multiple fields, the superintendent said. The school district is also paying an ongoing contract for weed spraying and fertilizer.
Recreation programs throughout the Gunnison Valley use the facilities, including for youth baseball, soccer, basketball, football, volleyball, track and adult volleyball, and softball tournaments, Squire noted.
The recreation programs keep all the revenue the programs bring in. But considering the positive impact the programs have in the community, the superintendent said, the school district has never billed and does not plan to bill the programs for the use of the facilities, maintenance, utility costs, or custodial cleanup.
One element of the upgrade that is not complete is an archway with flower boxes at the north entrance to the complex.
Gary Olson, school board member from Ephraim, said that “fluff” may not be the exact word he should use, but beautification ideas around the ballpark are not and should not be the district’s responsibility.
“It is our job as the district to provide a safe and functional facility,” Gary Olson, a board member from Ephraim, said. “It is not our job to provide fluff.”
Nay said Tuesday that the cosmetic improvements at the entry are not part of ballpark project funding by the CDBG. She said those would be covered by the city from a donation the city brings in from its Fourth of July celebrations.
Board members expressed frustration that Gunnison City had gone over budget without talking to the school district. And they said if the city wants to go above and beyond normal development on district property, city officials should reach out to them before doing so.
The school board acknowledged that the city worked hard to get the CDBG grant and appreciates being a beneficiary of the grant.
At times, the recreation district and community members have purchased equipment, made donations, and helped with maintenance, and Squire said that assistance has been extremely appreciated.
At the meeting in February, Nay likewise expressed appreciation for all the partners who had made the ballpark project possible. She especially mentioned Valley Builders, which, she said, had written off a lot of the cost overrun.