Cerro Gordo school officials feel their co-op sports partner should help pay for equipment installed at the Bronco’s new all-weather track.
Bement administrators and school board members are not so sure, saying more permanent items like a pole vault pit, timing system and high jump pit are not covered in the cooperative agreement that includes most high school sports between the two schools, including track and field.
The issue prompted plenty of discussion by Bement school board members at its Aug. 14 session.
Bement Superintendent Sheila Greenwood said the district has no problem paying for supplies, just not the more permanent enhancements.
“If they need new measuring tapes, stop watches, stuff like that, I don’t mind paying for that. That’s a normal expense,” said Greenwood. “But if you look at this, these are facility upgrades, permanent facility upgrades that we are asked to pay part of. I don’t think that’s fair.”
Other items on the invoice being questioned by Bement school officials are a shot put circle and toe board, discus circle, new hurdles, starting blocks, jump covers for the long jump/triple jump pit, and cross bars for both high jump and pole vault areas.
Bement board members questioned whether the co-op extends to fixtures for the Cerro Gordo track, completed as part of a $9.2 million building project that is wrapping up.
“I think a conversation needs to be had” before paying the bill, said board member Janice Fogerson. The schools generally add up co-op expenses at the end of the school year and square up. An initial accounting in June had Cerro Gordo owing Bement about $5,000, but the track add-ons submitted a month later shifted that to Bement owing their co-op neighbor $1,800, said Greenwood.
The largest item added to the track and field claims by Cerro Gordo is a $16,299 pole vault pit. Cerro Gordo divided that number in half since middle school athletes there will also use it, then applied the one-third co-op rule to bill Bement about $2,700.
The most recent cooperative agreement, approved in 2018, states that “all materials and purchased services and coaching stipends, excluding the cost of hosting a contest,” are eligible for the two-thirds/one-third split.
It’s the word “materials” that is in dispute.
Bement board member Trixie Stoerger-Flavin felt items that cannot be readily moved should not be eligible.
“That $16,000 pole vault pit is not something that can be divided if something were to happen with the co-op. It’s theirs and we can’t take it, so we should not be responsible,” she said.
Fogerson felt more permanent fixtures should be Cerro Gordo’s responsibility, since Bement’s taxpayers were not involved in approving the CG building project that also included a new middle school gym, connector building and conversion of a former gym into a district auditorium.
“They passed the bonds for that, right?” added board member Kyle Rogers.
Greenwood had an answer ready if Cerro Gordo officials do not relent.
“If we go ahead and pay for this, might I suggest that we do some facility upgrades at our baseball field; bleachers and scoring area, press box; football equipment such as a sled so we can have practices here, and even possibly a new press box for the football field,” Greenwood told the board. “Then Cerro Gordo will pay two-thirds of those costs as we have been asked to pay for some of their facility upgrades.”
Home contests for most sports are split between the two communities, also two-third for Cerro Gordo and one-third for Bement. For football, Bement hosts one or two football contests per season, depending on whether the team has four or five home games.
Fogerson urged Greenwood to have a conversation first before proposing the idea of Bement school upgrades that could be partially paid by Cerro Gordo.
“The right thing, the more responsible thing is to have a conversation,” said Fogerson.
Greenwood feels the issue arose when she pointed out an error in the initial co-op bill, where Bement was charged a share of Bronco Bus transportation costs. The new co-op agreement stipulates that only transportation provided by Birch Bus Services is eligible for reimbursement.
The change converted a Bement deficit into the $5,000 credit owed by Cerro Gordo.
The Bement superintendent said she then received a new track and field bill that increased reimbursable charges from $5,000 to nearly $35,000.
“I think it all stems from me asking them to follow the contract, and that we only split the cost of the Birch Bus transportation, as the contract reads,” stated Greenwood, who said she had called Cerro Gordo Superintendent Brett Robinson Thursday for clarification.
The Journal-Republican also attempted to contact Robinson, but the call had not been returned by press time.