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Gilmer ISD considers stadium renovations, saves $1.2 million in bond reissue

By Christina Lane
Jan. 17, 2012 at 11 p.m.

GILMER - Gilmer ISD trustees on Tuesday saved more than $1.2 million in interest on the district's 2003 and 2004 bonds, while also moving forward on plans to potentially renovate the 50-year-old Buckeye Stadium at no additional cost to taxpayers.

The school board voted unanimously to reissue $8,805,000 of the district's 2003 and 2004 bonds at a 2.065 percent interest rate. The district is paying 4.452 percent in interest.

Between now and 2030, the district will save $1,277,542 in interest on the bonds, said financial adviser Ed Moore, senior vice president of Southwest Securities.

The 2.065 percent interest rate secured Tuesday was the lowest Moore said he's seen in his career. Gilmer ISD also was the only district in the state to sell bonds Tuesday, generating a substantial amount of interest, Moore said.

With regard to plans for Buckeye Stadium, trustees authorized Superintendent Rick Albritton to move forward with the design process for renovating the facility.

"Our facilities are substandard for the quality of team and staffing that we have," trustee Jeff Rash said.

The district is considering installing new home side bleachers and renovating the press box area of the stadium at a cost of about $1.5 million, Albritton said. The project would not increase the district's tax rate, he said. Gilmer ISD has some smaller loans that will be paid off, and the district plans to use the money dedicated toward those payments for the new project, should trustees decide to proceed after the designs are rendered.

The district is considering expanding its 2,177-seat home bleachers to hold up to 2,900 people. The current home bleachers, particularly the areas with chair backs, are "faulty," Albritton said. He said there has been some concern that bolts could break on the seats and a row of seats might fall.

Meanwhile, the home bleachers also are at capacity for the district's football games. The district is not proposing any changes to visitor-side bleachers.

Buckeye Stadium was built in 1962 while the orange chair back seats were added in the early 1980s, Albritton said.

The 64-foot by 16-foot press box would be expanded to 80-feet by 18-feet and would be a two-story facility. The bottom floor would entirely be restrooms while the upper floor would house media. Plans would include an expanded area for coaches, camera crews and an additional space for radio.

In a separate but related matter, the district is looking to replace its turf which is still under warranty. The turf was installed seven years ago by FieldTurf USA Inc. and came with an eight-year warranty, Albritton said.

Since that time, ultraviolet rays have broken down the field and while it is still capable of being played on, the district is looking to cash in on the warranty while it can. Installing a turf that would have better protection against UV rays would cost the district $175,000 extra, according to a proposal from FieldTurf.

Rash noted the Buckeyes have made three appearances in the state championship game in the past 10 years, winning two of the titles. He said the district's facilities are "a little embarrassing" for the success of its football program.

Trustee Diedra Camp said she was concerned about the liability issues the district might face.

The district is seeking a long-term solution to the problems and trustees described the plan as "very moderate."

Longview architect Phil Thacker is expected to render a design at a cost of about $60,000. Should trustees opt to continue with the plans after the design is presented, they would then go out for bids on the project then secure the financing for it. The district also plans to hold some community meetings to present the plans to the public.



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