ITID Leaders: Safety Concerns Turn Park Resodding Project Into Major Renovation

From light towers to cell towers, from electrical conduits to drainage and facilities use — all were part of several discussions related to Acreage Community Park during the Wednesday, Aug. 17 meeting of the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors.

At the center of those discussions were frustrations with the pace of repairs by ITID employees to the park’s north football and softball fields and the associated scoreboards. The project was originally scheduled for completion by Aug. 1, in time for the start of practice for the Acreage Athletic League’s tackle football season.

Now AAL teams are practicing on other fields and scheduling more road games, as unanticipated work continues on drainage and electrical systems, ITID Executive Director Burgess Hanson said later. Softball teams can use the adjacent fields, but only by requesting a special permit.

What started as a resodding project on the football fields at a cost of approximately $110,000 has become a major renovation, if not more than that, Hanson explained.

“Basically, we’re building brand new fields,” he said, adding that the final price tag likely will be around $500,000.

The fields have a long history of water pooling in certain areas and weed growth, plus problems with scoreboards and lighting. Earlier this year, Parks, Facilities & Recreation Department Director Kenny Lawrence called the condition of the fields an emergency and a potential hazard.

Even so, “we didn’t know what we were getting into until we got under [the surface],” Supervisor Joni Martin said. “There were major, major issues.”

Many of the issues date back to the original construction of the fields in the mid-1990s, along with installation of lights and scoreboards. Supervisors were told that ITID workers recently replaced 150 bulbs in one of the light towers, but the lights still were not working as of the Aug. 17 meeting.

It also was discovered that some electrical conduits were buried only a few inches below the surface, Hanson said.

The need to redo much of the underground infrastructure for the fields, plus difficulty in obtaining needed materials due to supply chain issues, are responsible for the delay in completing the project, Hanson said.

“Nobody is happy the fields aren’t operational,” Martin told the Town-Crier this week. “But we can’t put them back together in a substandard way. That could come back to haunt us.”

Depending on how much rain the area gets, it probably will be December before the new sod has settled and rooted, and the fields can be played on, Hanson said.

In other park-related issues:

• After several months of controversy over the use of part of an Acreage Community Park parking lot by Nomad Mobile Fitness under a service provider agreement with ITID, Hanson told the supervisors that Nomad and the district had signed a six-month agreement for the continued use of the space. Nomad has the option to renew for another six months before the deal comes before the board for an annual review.

The agreement calls for an increase in Nomad’s monthly payment from $240 to $600.

Owner Chris Harris later called the change “a big increase,” but said he wasn’t complaining.

“It hasn’t been raised since we started here [in 2014],” he said. “I’m just excited to still be here.”

Earlier this year, controversy erupted when ITID Vice President Betty Argue questioned whether Nomad should be allowed to continue in the park under the longstanding service provider agreement.

Supporters of Nomad rallied to Harris, alleging that Argue was singling out the business because Harris’ wife was instrumental in creating a breakaway girls flag football league competing with the AAL. Argue, who is seen as a longtime supporter of the AAL, denied that was her motivation.

Harris said this week that he is not concerned with past arguments.

“Right now, I’m just trying to focus on providing a good program for people to enjoy,” he said.

In general, Argue said, she still does not approve of the district entering into contracts with for-profit businesses to provide services in the park. But because the agreement worked out with Nomad clearly spells out its role and responsibilities at the park, she supported it.

In the end, Argue was part of the 4-0 vote to approve the agreement.

• The board also heard a proposal from Tower Engineering Professionals to construct a 165-foot cell tower in a 40-foot-by-40-foot section of the park’s north parking lot. The lease agreement would provide several thousand dollars a month to ITID.

“It would mean extra dollars coming in for our parks and better cell phone service,” Supervisor Keith Jordano said. “It’s a win-win.”

However, several residents, including ITID Seat 1 candidate Patricia Farrell, rose during public comment to express concern that the tower would carry controversial 5G cell signals while being located close to where children and teens participate in sports.

“Putting it where the kids are, I think that’s very risky,” said Farrell, asking the board to do a more thorough investigation.

“I’m not opposed to the tower, but I’m not for the location,” said Martin, who currently holds Seat 1.