New Hope Middle School could have football and baseball facilities ready for the beginning of its second year this fall, but Whitfield County Schools is hoping to get a little help from county commissioners.

An agreement that allows the county recreation department to use school facilities in exchange for services is up in 2008, school officials said.

“We’re working with the county recreation department and new county administrator Bob McLeod in an attempt to make the county’s in-kind service more distributive,” superintendent Katie Brochu said Tuesday. “We’ve met with him and told him our concerns.”

George Smalley, assistant superintendent of operations, said the school system wants the county to pay its “fair share” in construction and maintenance of such fields, which the county recreation department uses frequently.

“We contract with the county commission to offset the cost of managing these ball fields through receiving in-kind services,” Smalley said. “As we started looking at the true cost of maintaining fields and gym floors, the cost is quadruple of what we’ve been receiving from in-kind services from the Whitfield County Public Works department, for example.”

Smalley said while it can cost $500,000 to ready playing facilities, the school system may receive $50,000 per year of in-kind services that “can be eaten up pretty quickly.” He said each school will use its football field about 10 times a year, while county recreation league teams can use such facilities “10 times more” between 3 and 10 p.m. at night.

Board of education chairman Tim Trew said he plans to continue informal talks with Brian Anderson, county commission chairman, this week.

“We now have a good assessment of our costs,” Trew said. “I’ll be looking at community-based programs with (Anderson). These are not just school facilities. They are used by everyone in the county.”

Smalley noted a full sports complex is not mandatory for New Hope Middle School’s educational mission.

“We can have a minimally sufficient playing surface — grass on the field — in place. We don’t need bathrooms and grandstands. Our kids can use our locker rooms and we can use a portable concession stand,” Smalley said. “We could put in place a minimal playing surface less than or equal to the fields at our other schools.”

New Hope was the first middle school in the system built specifically as a middle school. The other four middle schools — Eastbrook, North Whitfield, Valley Point and Westside — were all former high schools and had athletic facilities in place. New Hope used county ball fields and the Northwest High football field during its first year. Space has been leveled for fields, but little work has been done.

Smalley said other middle school athletic facilities are old and in need of some repairs. Board member Jerry Nealey said the school system will have to be cautious in making plans for the New Hope Middle facilities.

“These plans need to be consistent with other schools,” Nealey said, “or we’ll end up having to update fields all over the county.”

• Change Order No. 6

The school system is negotiating with JKH Architects of Dalton and Baggette Construction Inc. of Decatur, Ala., on a sixth “change order” for work on the school, this one for almost $70,000 for 20 items.

“This (six change orders) seems to be the standard when you open a new building today,” Smalley said.

The original construction contract of $8.04 million has grown to $8.93 million after almost $893,000 worth of work from the change orders.

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