Committee: $1.25M put toward Stadium Field

PARKERSBURG – Parkersburg High School’s Stadium Field Committee has put more than $1.25 million toward repairs and renovations at Stadium Field and has nearly $600,000 in funds still to be used.

Even so, committee members say due to higher than estimated costs, the project is still several hundred thousand dollars short.

The Wood County Board of Education on Monday ordered a stop to all work on stadium renovations and said there were serious issues with swelling costs and contractors not being paid. Officials also are debating who is financially responsible for seeing the project finished.

Charlotte Potter, treasurer for the stadium committee, outlined the group’s finances and fundraising figures during an interview Wednesday. Potter said $1.25 million has been put toward the stadium project, which includes $700,000 pledged by the Wood County Board of Education.

The amount also includes a $200,000 bank loan taken out by the stadium committee. Original reports indicated the committee had secured a $600,000 loan, but Potter said the group has only drawn $200,000 for the project at this time.

“We have either transferred or given money to the board in the amount of $1,251,000,” she said. “That includes $105,000 that was raised by the investors group, which they gave to the board directly.”

That investors group comprised of local businessmen recently questioned the use of its funding. Attorney Pat McFarland, who represents the group, said Monday donors wanted an audit of the project’s finances, a better understanding of how those donated funds have been used, and an explanation of alleged changes to work contracts after the contracts were awarded.

McFarland did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment.

Potter said an additional $198,000 raised by the investors group is being held in a Parkersburg High School Foundation account.

“We have not done anything with it,” she said. “We have not paid it on the loan or given it to the board.”

Potter said when volunteers began the process of fundraising for the stadium, the work was estimated to cost about $1.3 million. The most recent estimate from construction management firm Pickering Associates placed the cost at more than $2 million, Potter said, which left the group still several hundred thousand dollars short.

“That is what we were told,” she said. “I don’t know if that is still correct.”

Mike Fling, assistant superintendent of school services, directed questions about the stadium and contracts to Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Jason Wharton. Wharton acts as counsel for the Wood County Board of Education.

Representatives of the prosecutor’s office said Wharton was in court Wednesday and unavailable for comment.

Ryan Taylor, president of Pickering Associates and project engineer on the Stadium Field renovation project, said Tuesday he could not comment on the budget or work contracts for Stadium Field.

“I would love to talk about this, because there is some misinformation going around,” he said. “But I wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking about anything more without my client’s permission.”

Pickering Associates works for Wood County Schools and the Wood County Board of Education, he said.

Taylor said two parts of Phase II construction remain incomplete.

“During construction the fencing didn’t get done in time,” he said. “The intermediate mesh panels, those are yet to be installed. There was some additional concrete patching and repairing under the stadium and outside the stadium that needed done to protect the reinforcing steel. As it’s exposed to weather it will continue to rust, so you have to clean that up, coat it and cover it.

“Those are not structural issues,” he said. “Those are future issues of reinforcing and protecting the work we’ve already done.”

Since the board ordered a stop to work on the stadium, those parts of the project are on hold. The project also has not yet addressed the stadium’s visitor-side bleachers, Taylor said.

Potter said the stadium committee does not pay bills, but rather acts as a pass-through between donors and the school system, with Wood County Schools using the money to pay contractors.

Potter said she was unsure if bills from Grae-Con Construction, the main contractor on the project, had been paid, something that was questioned by school board President Tim Yeater at Monday’s meeting.

“That’s the part I don’t know,” she said. “That’s the part that’s in question.”

Wood County Schools Finance Director Connie Roberts did not return a call seeking comment.

Potter said questions about contracts being paid and whose money is to be used where have left the project floundering and have hurt fundraising efforts by the committee.

“It’s given us a black eye, and all we are doing is trying to raise money and improve our stadium for our students,” she said. Last week the committee received about $8,000 in donations at PHS. On Tuesday, the day after the school board put a spending freeze on the stadium project, only $200 in donations were turned in.

“It was a low day,” she said.

Potter said the stadium committee is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the PHS Hall of Fame annex. The school board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28.