When it comes to sightlines in Lebanon High School’s Danny Watkins Stadium, Blue Devil football fans want to know: Why didn’t they get it right the first time?
The problems with visibility in the lower section of the home side grandstand and poor playing surface on Clifton Tribble Field were unforeseen during construction of the new facility, according to Wilson County School and county officials. However, steps are being taken to improve both.
A motion was made at the Friday, May 30, county Board of Education meeting to move $38,950 for the field and $154,000 for the bleacher improvements from the discretionary fund remaining after the construction of Watertown High School. The motion was addressed again during Wilson County Commission’s Budget Committee meeting Thursday morning.
Finance Director Aaron Maynard said that $571,000 had been left over in the Watertown High School discretionary fund and had to be designated to a high school project.
“It is not like a bank loan. If you don’t use the money you are not going to change the bond payment schedule … We can’t take the leftover money and pay down the debt immediately,” he said.
District 14 Commissioner Jeff Joines told the committee that he would like to see some money be left in the fund for Watertown High “in case two years down the road something happens and we need to do some work there.”
Committee member and District 9 Commissioner Sara Patton amended the motion to approve moving $85,000 from the debt service fund and $69,000 from the $571,000 remaining in the WHS discretionary fund for these improvements. The motion received a second from County Mayor Randall Hutto and unanimous support from committee members.
Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said that no particular party was at fault for the issues and added that the bleachers were the same as those used at Mt. Juliet High School and Wilson Central High School.
Maynard said that while that is true, because of the layout of Mt. Juliet’s sunken field, they do not have the same troubles at LHS.
Tall concrete risers, such as the ones in place at Wilson Central, were not utilized in the construction of Watkins Stadium at LHS.
“We are going to raise these bleachers 4 to 5 feet. They have to be torn apart and put back together,” he said, stressing with Hall that elevating the bleachers is the best improvement that can be made without spending nearly half a million dollars.
BOE Zone 5 Member Larry Tomlinson attended the meeting and said that he agreed elevating the bleachers by 4 feet is the best they can do at this point.
“I don’t want to spend a lot more money, but adding the 4 feet will put them at 7 feet of elevation. I think it will be a tremendous advantage, because if you go there now you don’t really see the game unless you sit eight rows up,” he explained. “It just needs to be fixed.”
District 20 Commissioner Annette Stafford also supported the project, noting that improving the playing surface may cost a little money now – but they would pay a much higher price later.
“I’d hate for someone’s child to go out there and get hurt,” she said.
The motion must next pass through the Education Committee meeting, which was to be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday, and then be voted on by the entire County Commission at its regular meeting to be held 7 p.m., Monday, June 16, at the courthouse.
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at email@example.com.