EBENSBURG – After more than 45 minutes of sometimes-heated debate, Central Cambria School Board on Monday moved forward with two major construction projects.
Plans for the system-wide $7.5 million energy project and $9.7 million stadium upgrade and construction of a new turf multi-purpose field were presented to the public Jan. 7 at a special board meeting.
Not only did the board approve those plans Monday, but directors threw in a $791,052, 10-pole lighting system for the new field.
The approval did not come without dissension.
Director Michele Rice said she preferred the original multi-purpose field proposal, which only included infrastructure to add lighting at a later date.
For that reason, she voted against the athletic field project, which was approved 8-1.
“I am concerned about the 25-year commitment,” Rice said after the meeting, referring to the bond issue debt required to complete the projects.
“We will be replacing the turf before we pay for the field,” she said, adding that she supports the concept.
“I just wish it could be cheaper,” she said.
But Rice was not among the three “nos” opposing the lighting system for the baseball, softball and soccer field complex.
“If we are going to get the field, we should make sure it’s as usable as possible,” she said.
Joining Rice in support of the lights were board members Nathan Martin, Thomas Woods, Gayle Devlin, Craig Gibson and board Chairman Dennis Simmers.
Board members Chuck Gironda, Patricia Allbaugh and Charles Marchinko voted against the lights.
During a public work session before the official meeting, Gironda debated the lights’ value with Athletic Director Randy Wilson and retired Athletic Director Ron Stempka.
Stempka said the ability to play softball and baseball after dark would open the field for playoff games and other special events.
Gironda said he checked with nearby colleges and learned field rentals do not bring significant revenue.
“I don’t think there’s any way under the sun you are going to recoup the investment,” he said.
Gironda said he would support a four-pole lighting option that would only cost about $520,000.
“If you want to play baseball and soccer, you need 10 poles,” Martin said, adding that a four-pole system would allow for soccer and football practice after dark.
Principal Christopher Santini said the school currently supports more athletes in basketball because the gym can be used for six or seven hours after school by various groups.
There is not enough daylight to have multiple baseball practices, he said as an example.
“The junior varsity can’t practice when the varsity has a game,” Santini said. “You have to look at the big picture and develop kids from the lower grades up through varsity.”
Woods stressed that adding six poles later would probably cost more than the $270,000 difference.
“I’m going to chime in and say I’m a 10-pole guy,” Woods said. “I think you do it right the first time.”