The Wilson County education committee passed two measures last Thursday night concerning a mower for Watertown High School fields and improvements at West Wilson Middle School’s sports fields.
“The question being why the need for a reel mower and the other question being why would they lease it,” WCS Director Dr. Donna Wright told the education committee. “We’re in a day and time right now where typically, when you’re looking at how much time is expended on taking care of the fields, and in talking to (WHS principal Darian Brown), right now, it’s upwards of eight hours for field maintenance. A reel mower will bring it down to about half (that amount of time).”
The mower is similar to those used at golf courses. The lease with Greenville Turf and Tractor in Piedmont S.C., was a point of contention for Commissioner John Gentry who asked why the mower could not have been purchased from a John Deere dealership in the area.
Gentry said he stopped at a John Deere dealership in Mt. Juliet and “they don’t even have this mower there. But they do in Murfreesboro. They (also) have government pricing. I don’t know. It seems like why South Carolina, when you can get it in Murfreesboro? Maybe they won’t lease it to us. I don’t know.”
The monthly payment on the mower will be $532.39 for a total lease cost of $26,500. A new mower will cost upwards of $70,000, according to Wright.
“You see (the reel mowers) at golf courses and things like that and people are always surprised by how much field maintenance we have at a comprehensive high school,” she said. “Nevertheless, they can’t afford a new one. This is not something that’s going to be coming out of taxpayer dollars. It will come out of gate proceeds.”
She said that the Wilson County School board has approved the measure. She said Mt. Juliet High School will soon be leasing one as well, since their reel mower is almost worn out.
The measure passed unanimously.
The second issue was taking $1.2 million from funds left from the construction of Gladeville Middle School and using those monies to pay for improvements at WWMS.
A concession stand, restrooms, field house and press box will be constructed with the money to make WWMS equal to the other middle schools in WCS.
WCS Finance Director Mickey Hall said that the project is something that former WWMS principal Wendell Marlowe, who is now the principal at Southside Elementary, has been working on for a number of years.
Education committee chairman Annette Stafford said that if the school board is going to provide “something for one school, we need to try and provide for everybody. I don’t think these kids have had it. Commissioner Marlowe has been working on this five, six maybe longer years that I know of. I think it’s only fair that if you have the money to do it, you should do it.”
Gentry said that he has no problem spending money on education, “but I don’t think this is the wisest way to do it. You have the roofing projects, other projects that have to do with the buildings. The sports complex is important, but you can never keep up from one school to another. They have something and the other school has to have it. You can go on this forever.”
Stafford said that if, “you tell the parents that, you’re going to have a firestorm.”
Marlowe, who is also on the education committee, said that the sports complex additions were in the original plans for the school.
“The funding was not there to complete it,” he said. “Mt. Juliet has moved into the old Mt. Juliet High School. They have those facilities. Watertown has moved into the old high school, so they have those facilities. Gladeville Middle School has been built, and they have those facilities. It is only fair to the students who go to WWMS and that parents and the community to have the same facilities as the other three middle schools.”
The measure passed 6-1, with Gentry voting “no.”
In the budget committee meeting, both measures passed unanimously.