Rockford Schools ball field project moves from Corcoran to Rockford

City of Corcoran re-evaluates costs surrounding project

By Linda Herkenhoff

SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS

 

A big change of plans concerning a varsity baseball field project on Rockford Area School-owned land in the city of Corcoran was made by a unanimous decision of the Rockford School Board at its March 17 meeting.

The project has not been sidelined; the district still intends to build a field similar in scope to the one that’s been in the works in Corcoran. The big difference is that it is now moving to Rockford. The board voted to bring the project to Rockford, but it will now have to investigate its options in naming an exact location.

The project seemed to have a lot of momentum since it was pitched in 2013. The district owns land in the city of Corcoran and is one of the school districts that serve its residents. The expansion into Corcoran with the ball field was considered by some involved on the city and district levels as the first step in getting district presence in the city, something that would eventually lead to the building of an elementary school there.

At an October Corcoran City Council meeting, Mayor Ken Guenthner referred to future talks on further expansion as “the big vision discussion.” He added, “I think both parties recognize that working together on the ball field and master planning would probably lead to the school planning.”

Guenthner was present at the March 17 board meeting and spoke to the board regarding a decision by the Corcoran City Council not to fund the project at the amount the district asked for, to the tune of approximately $200,000.

Some of funding would be used to fund a parking area. Guenthner added that lane changes would need to be made in the vicinity of the project, an additional cost it would have to pick up if it moved forward on the project using the schedule the district was looking at. Future construction in the area may play a big part in who actually funds the road improvements.

Construction of the ball field was originally planned for 2014, with play beginning in 2015. The land is near the Corcoran City Park on County Road 50. The cost of the building the field, including parking and amenities, was estimated at $991,000. The city has invested $45,000 (in collaboration on a grant) in the project, which the district has obtained to help defray construction costs.

Because the parking lot, with lighting, would be accessible to parties using either the ball field or city park, the district asked that the city pick up the tab on that park of the project.

Upon finding out that this would not be the case — at least not in the time frame the district has adhered and appears to be committed to — School Board Chair Ted Botten asked the board’s other members to proceed in the decision-making process through determination by elimination.

He laid out major options for consideration including:

–Delay the project until road improvements in the area of the potential Corcoran site are made (or the funding of them is in place) and the city is willing to cover the previously approved contribution amount of around $200,000.

–Proceed with the project as is, with the district covering the remaining costs in full.

–Move the project to Rockford, with a site to be determined as early as possible to keep the construction close to the original schedule.

As discussion ensued, Botten reiterated his desire to work through a decision by eliminating what would not be acceptable by the board.

The first option scratched off the list was to delay, with all board members agreeing that this was a priority project that had been promised to the public for some time, and that it needed to go forward.

The decision to walk away from the Corcoran site, at least for now, was a little trickier, as funds have been spent on professional services like engineering. Rockford Schools Superintendent Paul Durand did, however, tell the board that there would be savings by bringing the ball field back into the city including transporting athletes back and forth.

Asked about the Twins Grant, it was determined that the grant was awarded to the district for a project, and that moving the location of the ball field would not change eligibility.

Through the process of elimination, the board’s preferred option was to move the project to Rockford. The action has the full support of the board.

In other school news, the Rockford Area School District 883 will celebrate spring break from March 31 through April 4.

The next regular meeting of the Rockford School Board is at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 21, in the district board room located in the lower level of the Rockford Middle School – Center of Environmental Studies.

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