MORRIS — It always seems to be that any major construction project runs into problems and delays occur. The deadline for completion rarely seems to be met.
That, however, does not appear to be the case in the new track project at Morris Community High School. Things are running smoothly, and the track should be completed and ready to go by the time the Redskins host their first football game on Aug. 31.
"Things are going pretty smooth," MCHS maintenance director Mark Walker said. "The last two or three weeks, there have been a lot of trees put in. The blacktop is laid down and it takes 28 days to cure. The surface will be put down on the 31st, and that takes 7-8 days to cure. If things go our way, it will be ready to go by the 15th."
Probably the biggest snag in the process was when Saratoga Community School District 60c voted not to approve the intergovernmental agreement that would have split 50 percent of the estimated budget with Morris Elementary District 54. Morris Community High School District 101 was slated to pick up the other 50 percent. After Saratoga voted not to approve the agreement, District 54 will now be responsible for $236,000 of the $676,000 total cost of the track renovation.
In the agreement, District 101 will be solely responsible for 100 percent of the track maintenance and upkeep. District 54 and 101 will share the costs of the equipment start-up costs and District 54 will pay $10,250 of those costs. The district which hosts a track meet will be the one that will hold the concessions as well.
The agreement allows District 54 to have at minimum five track meets, but if weather and space permitted, more would be allowed. District 54 Activities Director Kevin Mikuce said he has worked with District 101 to look at open dates for the track meets for the 2018-19 school year and all contact has been positive and he does not foresee any issues with schedules. Currently, District 54 has scheduled five home track meets and Morris Community High School has three, with the possibility of a fourth.
The renovation is being made because the track at the school was not usable and the Morris boys and girls teams had to have all of their meets on the road. The track had to be widened in order to make eight regulation-sized lanes. Some changes had to be made, such as cutting a bit into the sidewalk on the south end of the high school, coming in closer to the football field and installing new long jump, high jump, and pole vault pits, as well as shot put and discus areas. The throwing areas will be behind the visitor's bleachers on the west side of the track and the jump pits wlll be on the southwest corner of the facility. There was also new drainage installed around the track.
"Everything is up to code and has passed inspection," Walker said about the project, which is being handled by R.J. Sohol Construction. "We needed to widen the track to add more lanes. We had to change the sidewalk a little bit, but there is still plenty of room for people to get through to the other side of the field. The permanent concrete pads have been laid for the high jump and pole vault and the sand is getting put in the long jump. We need to seed along the edges for the grass to grow, but that work is going well, too.
"We also put new drainage in, which will help the field."
With the new facility, Morris hopes to improve not only its track program, but also the community.
"It's been over 20 years since we had a home track meet, so it's long overdue," Morris athletic director Jeff Johnson said. "We are excited about it. Not only for our track athletes, but for all the kids in the school that will get to use it in PE class. The people in the community will be able to use it, too. Now our track program can have home meets and so can the feeder programs. It will benefit our entire athletic program.
"Another thing is that it just improves the overall look of the stadium. There is a new surface, new fences. It just looks nicer. We are hoping in the future to upgrade bit by bit. We need new bleachers, a new scoreboard, things like that.
"I have to say that Mark Walker has been great throughout all of this. He has worked alongside the contractors to make sure things get done how we want them. We are looking forward to having it completed for our football team's annual scrimmage on Aug. 17."