EDUCATION

Mercer County School Board ponders $1.5 million donation

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
Tom Maranville, fund-raising consultant, spoke to the Mercer County School Board about the district accepting more than $1.5 million for improvements to the senior high football field and track.

The Mercer County School Board heard a proposal to revamp the high school athletic field in Aledo including creating an all-weather track. Tom Maranville, fund-raising consultant, spoke to the Mercer County School Board about the district accepting more than $1.5 million for improvements to the senior high football field and track.

Maranville talked about a campaign committee that has been looking at raising funds to bring the school track up to competition standards. A feasibility study was completed talking to individuals from both the west and east sides of the county. The money would come from some select donors, according to Maranville. "A hundred or so people might give to this project," he told the board.

Two local individuals, Rusty Ruggles and Andy Frye were named by Maranville as co-chairmen of the project. "We've received over $800,000 worth of projected commitments for this project," he added.

"These folks came forward during the feasibility process saying 'put me down for X amount,'" said Maranville.

He suggested that $100,000 of the money raised be put into a maintenance fund to continue upkeep on the improvements.

Some of the improvements that are needed include repairing the visiting bleachers, installing a sand capped field in the football field for better drainage, improving the lighting on the field and expanding the track to allow for meets to be held at the high school.

The feasability study was completed after the first of the year, according to Rusty Ruggles.

Maranville said the chairmen of the project would take from eight months to a year to sign up pledges, that would be paid over a three to five year period.

Maranville said he has seen other schools use this kind of funding for similar projects. "Over the years we know that 95 percent (of pledges) are collected."

He said that to help pay for the project up front a bank would loan money based on the pledges.

The school district would benefit around $4,000 per event to host home track meets.

Board president Dwight Shoemaker was skeptical about the proposal because it appears to be bypassing board approval. He wanted to see what architectural plans looked like.

"We're asking if you're willing to accept a gift," said Ruggles.

Shoemaker said that the board could be held liable if due diligence wasn't done.

"The board will be consulted. You are the final deciding body," said Maranville.

Board member Steve Willits said, "I'm a board member. Why not have the track at Joy?"

Co-chair Frye said, "We don't believe we could raise the funds to put the track in Joy."

"We just assumed that if you have a high school athletic facility you'd have it where the high school is," said Ruggles.

Shoemaker was concerned about giving full disclosure to the donors. "You're going to tell the donors there is no plan and that it will not be done until you get the money?" Shoemaker asked.

Maranville suggested the board take a look at the proposal and vote on it in a month.

Board member Trisha Hank said, "I want to say what an opportunity. Thank you. Thank you very much."

"I'm surprised that there is this much consternation," said Maranville.

Other board members asked some good questions.

Don Yates asked, "How many campaigns have you done?"

Maranville said he had done 20-25.