Beaufort County is looking for ways to provide more public recreation space without spending more money. It might turn to public schools to do that.
County administrator Gary Kubic said the county is exploring joint use of school facilities."A hypothetical idea is, 'Can we find a better way to share facilities and allow the taxpayer, who paid for all these things, to walk on a track; or at least not duplicate the things we already have?'" Kubic said at the council's February retreat.
The need is demonstrated by the schedule of the county's Parks and Leisure Services youth sports teams, PALS director Joe Penale said. He has to schedule practices and games for 100 soccer teams on five fields and for 80 basketball teams in 3 gymnasiums.
"Our fields are pretty full," he said. "Extra fields would always help."
County Council listed providing additional recreational facilities as one of its high priorities during its retreat, but it is determined to do so without raising property taxes.
The county has not approached the school district about using its fields, Kubic said, because the idea is still being examined by staff.
Requests from the public to use school facilities are nothing new to employees of the school district, though. Director of operations Terry Dingle said he is open to any proposal, as long as it doesn't lead to overuse of the fields or conflict with students' schedules.
Most of the tracks, he said, are already open for walkers and joggers when students aren't using them.
Beaufort High School athletic director Jerry Linn said he gets 10 to 20 requests each year to use fields or the gymnasium for non-school athletic events, fundraisers and even an occasional wedding. "I think I've been pretty accommodating ... but it can be a hassle," he said.
Dingle said allowing turf to recover after season-long use is critical to prolonging the life of outdoor fields.
"We have to be very careful how much we do," he said. "By the time we accommodate everyone, our window of time to get that field ready for its actual use for students is diminished tremendously."
Athletic fields have to be resodded about every 10 years and cost $100,000 to $150,000 per field, Dingle said. Beaufort High School is now resodding its main football field after 11 football seasons, Linn said.
The condition of the fields also is monitored by state athletic associations, and the school can be cited for safety violations if they aren't maintained, Dingle said.
"We have to be cognizant that the kids come first," he said.