Officials at the St. Helens School District (SHSD) are considering funding options for a new turf field at St. Helens Middle School.
One entity that will not be funding the field is the City of St. Helens.
At their work session meeting on August 7, Mayor Rick Scholl said city staff had looked at ways to fund the new field and found it would not be possible.
“With the rec program being in play, and the city funding it, we don’t have the monies available,” Scholl said. “We’re not discussing it any further.”
SHSD Superintendent Scot Stockwell and board member Bill Amos asked St. Helens City Council to contribute funds to the field at the July 17 city council work session. Stockwell explained the overall cost of the field would be about $500,000, providing estimates for the constituent parts to be $320,000 for the turf and infield, $30,000 for engineering, $150,000 for subgrade and drainage.
Stockwell said he thought the councilors’ support of the project would be beneficial for the community.
“We’ve got our intergovernmental agreement, our partnership, and we’re going to continue to grow and expand that, and I think it would be a good way to support that project,” Stockwell said.
Scholl asked the school district representatives if grants would be available for the field. Amos said the district has looked at different grants from the nonprofit USA Football, one that will pay up to $100,000, one that will pay $70,000 and one that will pay $50,000 toward the project. Stockwell also said the district could pull funds from their bond which helped construct the new middle school, because the district was able to make some savings from construction. As Stockwell explained, that situation would not be ideal.
“Money we put towards this turf project takes away from the high school,” Stockwell said.
SHSD is currently working on a bond proposal for a November ballot which will raise $65 million for the renovation of St. Helens High School.
Stockwell also explained that the ask for funding was not necessarily for the total cost.
“Anything that the city would propose would be certainly appreciated. I don’t think we’re asking for the full $500,000,” Stockwell said.
Stockwell also said the district is currently working on a request for proposals to find a company to put in the turf field. As the timeline stands, the turf field would not be put in until October.
The work session also dedicated time to brainstorming possible avenues for fundraising for the field.
St. Helens resident Rich Bailey and past SHSD board member shared one story from 20 years prior, where the boosters club at SHSD was trying to fundraise for a new covered grandstand at SHHS. Bailey explained that while some fundraising efforts raised some money, the real success came when Coca Cola approached the boosters club to have an exclusive soft drinks contract.
“That money from the contract was used for the grandstands,” Bailey said. “Without that contract the boosters would still be fundraising for covered grandstands at the field.”
Bailey further explained that with any kind of fundraising activity in St. Helens, nothing has approached the amount of funds needed for the middle school turf field.