Excavating work underway for River Ridge athletic fields

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Vincent Excavating, of Lancaster, is busy doing the excavation and earth moving work for the River Ridge athletic fields project.

 

By Ted Pennekamp

 

Excavation and earth moving has began for the $2.2 million River Ridge athletic fields project.

Top Notch Construction near Patch Grove is the general contractor and Vincent Excavating of Lancaster is doing the excavation work.

“They have made some amazing progress this last week,” said River Ridge School Board President Ken Nies.

The project will improve the grounds of the Patch Grove school by adding a football field, practice football field, eight-lane rubberized track, lighting for all fields, and a concession stand/press box/restroom building.

During a March 25 special meeting, the school board voted 6-0 to borrow $700,000 toward the project. In May, the district borrowed another $1 million for the project.

The district will have a referendum in either February or April of 2020 to refinance the project. If the referendum passes, it will save about $500,000 from the project cost.

Before the March 25 special meeting, the district already had $500,000 for the project, $165,000 for lighting which was approved in the referendum of 2016 to have all grades at the Patch Grove school, and $335,000 from insurance premium holidays.

Nies said it makes financial sense to do the entire project as soon as possible and also to pass a refinancing referendum in February or April to save the district another $500,000. The $500,000 savings would come about because the state would provide approximately 30 percent of the funding for payments that are referendum debt versus no money from the state for payments that are within the existing budget.

When the athletic fields project is completed, the district will no longer have to lease a large portion of the former Bloomington school site, which will save the district $60,000 per year in lawn care, utilities, snow plowing and general maintenance of the Bloomington site.

Nies said the Bloomington site is up for sale again, but the athletic fields project won’t be completed in time for football, so River Ridge football games this fall will be played on the Bloomington field. Any sale will become effective after the football season.

The payments for the River Ridge athletic fields project will be about $91,000 per year over 20 years.

Since the 2016 referendum passed, the River Ridge student enrollment has gone up from 517 to 552. District officials have said all River Ridge students would use the new facilities for physical education, the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, and other fitness training.

River Ridge has about 200 more students than every other school in its conference, and therefore, the new facility will be well used. The lights will allow for full length doubleheaders in baseball and softball, and also for JV games without being cancelled due to darkness.

Nies said there are no plans to cut any programs offered at River Ridge. In fact, the plan is to offer more when the efficiency of truly being at one site is in full effect.

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