Bibb schools likely to inherit stadium costs

Starting next month, it looks like the Bibb County school system will take over most of the upkeep costs for Henderson Stadium and the Bibb County Sports Complex, which are owned by the county but used mainly by the school system.

The Bibb County Board of Commissioners typically paid about $200,000 a year to keep the two stadiums maintained, but the county sent the school system a notification letter in April saying that it wasn’t going to do so anymore.

The county also said it wouldn’t renew its stadium contract with the school system. That contract expires Tuesday.

The agreement had allowed the school system to rent the stadiums for $1 a year to use for high school football games.

The school system also paid $22,000 a year for mowing and watering the fields, as well as utilities.

But Bibb County’s chief administrative officer, Steve Layson, said that over the years, maintenance and other fees were spilling well over what the school system paid, and the county was having to pick up the rest.

“They would stripe the field and send us a bill,” Layson said. “The board of commissioners felt like this was not a responsibility of (the county) to maintain sporting facilities.”

The county has since cut $157,000 in stadium maintenance expenses out of its fiscal 2010 budget.

Layson said the county hasn’t had any response from the school system about updating a contract or the school system offering to pay more of the upkeep costs.

School system officials have added more money into their 2010 school budget to pay for stadium expenses.

The spending plan includes a line item to spend $250,000 in stadium costs, compared to the $22,000 it paid the county this past school year.

“If they’re not going to pick it up” the system doesn’t have much choice, said Ron Collier, the Bibb County school system’s chief financial officer.

Superintendent Sharon Patterson, however, wouldn’t go so far as to say the school system will be taking over the expenses.

“There’s been no agreement reached by either party,” she said.

While Patterson said the system recognizes that there are expenses the school system should pay for using the stadiums, the $250,000 in the budget is simply money set aside in case it’s needed. The plan could be amended, she said.

Board member Gary Bechtel said the school board knew there would come a time when the county cut the stadium expense.

“All in all, considering the frequency of use for all the varsity games and junior varsity games and things we utilize the stadiums for, we’re probably getting a pretty good bargain for the money,” he said. “We can’t afford to buy any new ones.”