Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fields of Extremes

Dickens once started a book with the line, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times...".  That line struck a nerve for us after touring the athletic fields with the School Board's Planning Committee, chaired by John Welke, this week.  It was eye-opening, to say the least.  And it provided a plethora of blog fodder (Pardon the gratuitous use of the word "plethora" on the eve of the first NFL Sunday of 2013.  We wanted to beat the NFL announcers who always seem to work that word in).

It is the best of times, because we cannot agree more with board member Steve Schroeder, who remarked that the district is indeed blessed with an awesome set of athletic venues.  Of course, the taxpayers paid a pretty supertanker load of pennies for those fields.  We'd add, however, that it also appears to be the worst of times, because we are entering the 4th year of the new high school (and its fields) and they are in serious disarray.  With awesome fields comes awesome responsibility....that is to say...taking care of the fields.

What we learned

  • We don't have enough [buildings and grounds] staff.  No surprise there.
  • We file insurance claims rather than hold vendors accountable.
  • We apparently need one guy to supervise two workers at the high school.  Really?  Then maybe we have the wrong supervisor...or wrong staff.
  • We heard an awful lot of blame shifting onto the former buildings and grounds manager, Tom Brooks.  Hope our liability insurance is paid up.  Mr. Brooks might just be calling in regards to something like a defamation/slander claim.
  • There is some serious "settling" in the outfield of the glorious Summit Field.  Someone is going to get hurt chasing a fly ball.  Shouldn't those fields be warrantied against defects like that?
  • "Settling" in the fields?  looks more like isolated pits to us.  More like from underground sprinklers.  And the question to be asked is: how come there's no "settling"  occurring on the softball fields. we remember...that question was asked:  those fields were developed by a different contractor.   Things that make you go, "Hmmmm".  
  • Were fields developed according to specifications?  We learned that the JV baseball field was constructed with only 6" of topsoil instead of the required $12.
  • We need to replace about 40 bushes/shrubs because of snow plowed onto them or salt from the parking lot.   Hello?  Ag class?  UW Extension maybe?   Maybe work with the city to rethink the required plantings.
  • We learned from our tour guide, Dale Wiesinger [sp.?], that our sprinklers don't overlap coverage.  Really? RUFKM?
  • Oh yeah...before we forget...where was our highly compensated "construction manager"...our "buyer's agent on-site" during this? [].  We paid them $7,300 per MONTH to watch over the quality of work being done on the $84M high school project.  And that was for several years. 

The windstorm
Back in April, you'll likely recall, Sun Prairie experienced a powerful "derecho" wind event that wreaked havoc on the backstops of the varsity and JV baseball fields and tore out most of the outfield fence, including signs from advertisers that paid a hefty price for Summit Field to carry their banners.  The backstops are still seriously mangled, and the fence looks pretty cobbled together.  The signs are still missing.

Oh we had questions....why did the backstops bend like that?  Shouldn't they be warrantied against such structural anomalies ( we dont recall other schools complaining of their backstops being bent)?  Shouldn't we be working with the vendor?  Who's going to pay for the outfield fence and replacement signs?

All good questions, but the answers leave only more questions.  Apparently, it is our understanding that someone(s) added netting to the backstops and they were not engineered to handle the extra weight.  It's physics in its purest form, kiddies.  When you place something of significant wight at the top of something, the fulcrum point shifts.  Or something like that :-)  So it seems that while the logical thing to do would be to start by contacting the  vendor, it appears we might have caused our own problems.

So we make an insurance claim.  Want to bet that the insurer is asking the same questions?  Why did we do something that changed the structural integrity and then expect to be compensated when we suffer a loss?  Isn't that going to result in an increase to our premium?  Especially if it turns out that we added the netting without verifying that the structural support can handle it?