SDPC talks options for athletic facilities

COUNTY — Superintendent Henry Hunt came before the School District of Pickens County’s Board of Trustees at Monday night’s meeting seeking authorization to negotiate lease agreements with the cities of Liberty and Pickens for high school athletic stadiums that will not be needed once the new high schools in Liberty and Pickens are operational.
“The city of Liberty and the city of Pickens have shown interest in leasing football stadiums and fields belonging to SDPC,” explained Hunt. “At this time, they do not want to purchase the properties; however, each municipality would be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the properties and the district would lease the properties for a nominal fee.”
As presented, the idea has potential to be a win-win scenario for both the school district as well as the two municipalities. By leasing the unused properties to local cities, the district will bring in some revenue and, because Liberty and Pickens will absorb the upkeep and maintenance responsibilities, the district will be saving money on that end.
Trustee Ben Trotter, who is newly elected to the SDPC Board, suggested that instead of leasing the unused properties, the district should try to sell them for some profit. Trotter called for an amendment that would table the motion to authorize Hunt’s lease negotiation until a committee could look into the matter further.
Alex Saitta, in agreement with Trotter, suggested that board members need to gather a list of all SDPC surplus property so that they can reach a consensus about what to do with the excess properties.
“The district has always been extremely generous, but with a $12 million reduction in revenue, we are no longer in a position to give away these properties. Let’s see what we have — what it is worth,” said Saitta.
Counter to their arguments, trustee Judy Edwards asked, “what if we can’t sell the properties? Everyone needs money just like we do. Who else is going to use them? They can’t sit idle. It looks bad for the cities.”
Bringing balance to the discussion, chair Jim Shelton suggested that the properties could be leased, so the district would maintain ownership and the properties would not be neglected, while board members and the district work together to inventory the surplus properties and research potential buyers.
Trotter’s amended motion passed with a 5-0-1 vote, with Dr. Herbert Cooper abstaining from the vote, so the motion was tabled until the district can provide board members with a surplus property inventory.
Also discussed at Monday’s meeting was how to manage expenses for Daniel High athletics since construction of the new DHS has interfered with practice areas and game fields. Sports like football and soccer have temporary practice and game fields to use until the construction is complete; however, where Daniel’s baseball teams will practice and hold games is still up in the air.
The city of Clemson has worked with the district to accommodate various athletic teams. There is a field available at Old Stone Church that would be suitable for practice, but at this time it does not have the proper lighting that would be necessary for evening/night games. When construction began on the DHS site, the district donated lights from the athletic fields to the city of Clemson. These lights can be used to make the field at Old Stone Church suitable for both practices and games, but installation of the lights and readying the field is going to cost anywhere from $80,000-90,000.
The city of Clemson is asking the school district to pay $30,000 toward these expenses, and, in return, the city will waive all fees associated with DHS athletic teams’ use of recreational fields in Clemson.
Hunt said there was a $75,000 line item in the budget allocated for relocation of DHS athletics. This is where the $30,000 would come from should the board agree to comply with the city of Clemson’s request.
Shelton said he was of the opinion that the city of Clemson should pitch in and help SDPC sans the $30,000 fee.
“The school district has been very generous with the local municipalities,” Shelton said. “We need to say ‘Hey folks. We need help.’ We have always been over the top generous. These kids live in your district and without your help they will not have an athletic program.”
Trotter agreed.
“We’ve done a lot for the cities,” he said. “They ought not to be plucking more feathers out of the chicken.”
Edwards and Cooper both felt that “$30,000 is a bargain.”
“The city of Clemson is waiving their fees. The $30,000 is just for the lights. Clemson is doing its share,” said Cooper.
Final decisions were not reached on Monday night.
Board members and district administrators will continue discussion of the issue and have further negotiations with the city of Clemson. Clemson city council will be holding a meeting on December 22. Daniel athletics is scheduled to be on the agenda at the meeting.