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USD 428 approves turf cost-share
City taking bids on turf until March 19
Sports Complex 2012 file
Staff and commissioners of the Great Bend Recreation Commission tour the new Great Bend Sports Complex in this file photo from April 9, 2012. - photo by Susan Thacker

The Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education voted 6-1 Monday to share the cost of adding artificial turf at the Great Bend Sports Complex. The City of Great Bend and Great Bend Recreation Commission have also agreed to share the cost of this project, which is being let for bids.

Board member Don Williams voted against the proposal.

The board first addressed this at its Feb. 18 meeting but voted 4-3 to table the item until March 8 to allow additional time to gather information. At the time, the City had a vendor in mind and hoped all entities would agree to share in the $1.4 million cost.

Board member Deanna Essmiller said her earlier vote to table the action “wasn’t a vote against turf. It was to find out information before we voted and to get some facts. My job as a school board member is to be diligent about how we spend our money.”

Board member Jacquie Disque added, “I completely agree. I just want to make sure we’re putting our money where we need to put it.”

Disque had some questions for Board President Chris Umphres, who is also the assistant superintendent at the Rec Commission and has supported the proposal. One question was about the possible add-on cost of $120,000 for a cooling system that will reduce the temperature on the infields by 20 degrees. Umphres said that came up at the City’s work session. The system would cool the infield without watering, which is not good for the turf. “Nobody else has a baseball field in Kansas with it,” he said.

Superintendent Khris Thexton added that the cost of the cooling system, if approved, will be borne by the City.

The Sports Complex opened in 2012. There were community efforts in August of 2018 to have artificial turf installed but at the end of the year a committee formed to study the feasibility determined it was not the time for the costly project. Instead, the committee stressed the importance of developing a comprehensive master plan for the city’s recreational facilities.

Williams said his vote to table the issue last month came because it came up so suddenly.

“I was taken aback. When we voted on that agenda it came out that very day in the Post where it kind of sounded like the school district was on board,” he said. He received feedback from only a few people, but said, “the few people I talked with were not in favor.”

Essmiller responded, “I had some that thought it was too much. I don’t know what is the right amount.”

Board member Lori Reneau said she supports the measure. “I look at it and think it is something that we’re helping our community with – USD 428 is a huge part of the community.” She said she also liked the fact that the board’s action Monday limits its share of the cost to no more than $280,000, which was the original suggested price when the City planned to procure the work without bid letting.

Board member Aaron Emerson also said, “it’s a good investment for the community.” Board member Susan Young also voted for the cost-share proposal, saying she appreciated additional information that Umphres provided to board members.

The Great Bend City Council on March 1 authorized city administrators to proceed with the project to install artificial turf on the four infields at the Sports Complex and on the infield at Langrehr Field, which is located east of the sports complex, contingent upon the school board joining the rec commission in agreeing to share the cost. The council set a maximum amount for to project of $1,589,444 and authorized it to go out for bids.

The cost-share amounts are: City of Great Bend, 60%; Great Bend Recreation Commission, 20%, including some maintenance costs; and USD 428, 20%, up to $280,000. 

“That’s the maximum it could be,” Thexton said. “It could be less.”

The City is taking bids on the synthetic turf installation project until noon on March 19.