White Oak softball field

Parent Alvin Wingo, center, speaks to White Oak City Council members about the city's softball field on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, at White Oak City Hall. (Jimmy Daniell Isaac/News-Journal photo)

WHITE OAK — City, school and economic development leaders are putting together a plan to improve a softball field at White Oak City Park.

White Oak council members Tuesday backed a commitment by the city’s economic development corporation to add a dressing room and maybe more to the athletic field used by the White Oak High School’s girls softball team and the local youth girls softball association.

Council members also approved a $5.869 million spending plan for 2019-20, as well as a property tax rate of 60.24 cents per $100 valuation. That rate is a 2.6% increase, and the budget provides for a 0.4% spending increase over 2018-19.

That new rate means a tax bill of $602.40 for every $100,000 valuation on a property. The average home value in White Oak is about $148,000.

The rate is the city’s rollback rate — the highest the city can set before being required to seek voter approval.

White Oak High School baseball and softball teams practice and play their games at City Park, but the condition of the softball field has brought on several safety and security concerns, said Alvin Wingo, a parent of two softball players.

It could cost more than $600,000 to fully repair the field’s dugout, add facilities and drainage and make other security additions, he said.

At a minimum, the three local governments could team up to build a 30-foot-by-30-foot dressing room at a cost of about $63,000. It would provide for as many as 27 lockers for the players, but that won’t meet the softball program’s projected future growth, Wingo said.

Monday night, White Oak ISD trustees tentatively agreed to pay $50,000 toward improving the city-owned field — contingent on a shared funding plan with the city and White Oak Economic Development Corp., Superintendent Mike Gilbert said.

WOEDCO directors voted Aug. 27 to provide one-third of funding needed to improve the field.

City Coordinator Charlie Smith will bring to the council a proposal to join in funding at a future meeting, but after hearing from several council members, he believes the plan might go beyond a simple metal dressing room.

“I think some of that stuff may change,” Smith said.

Council members Tuesday also amended this year’s utility fund budget to address a shortfall.

The city expected $1.523 million in water revenues this year, which was actually $174,000 less than in 2018, Assistant City Secretary Melba Haralson said.

This year’s revenues have been plagued by several unlucky breaks, however, such as lower water usage by the city’s customers, a break in the city’s raw water intake line from Big Sandy Creek and needed maintenance repairs to its lift stations.

“I think it had to do with the wet spring we had,” Haralson said. “We’ve had a dry summer, so we’re hoping for a good collection in September, but as of the end of August, we were $324,000 short of budget.”

Council members amended the budget to reflect what Haralson projects will be a $93,800 shortfall when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. That estimate — contingent on better water utility collections this month — will come from the utility fund’s $1.2 million reserves, she said.