HALLOWELL — Safety concerns about the track at Hall-Dale High School had Simmons Fund committee members discussing its replacement at their meeting Tuesday night.

The track is the committee’s main focus, but it is still in the planning process. Hall-Dale Principal Mark Tinkham said the project could take 12-16 months from the time an architect looks at the field, to the time a final design and the track are put into place. The committee also discussed installing new LED lights, as well.

The committee is looking at the project for the 2022-2023 school year. No specific costs were discussed, and Business Manager Vicki Raymond will review the district’s options. She said the year will give her time to review all options, as well as bring the plan to the appropriate Regional School Unit 2 school board committees for the planning and approval process.

The Simmons Committee comprises Hall-Dale High School faculty members, Superintendent Tonya Arnold and school board members Dawn Gallagher and Linda Leet.

When Hallowell resident Melvin Simmons died, he set aside money specifically for the Hall-Dale High School athletic facilities. The money goes to Hall-Dale High School, but members of the community and other high schools within RSU 2 can use the facilities.

“It helps the school and the community,” Tinkham said. “Anything we do on school grounds is an extension of the community and RSU 2 community.”

Gordon Murray, RSU 2’s director of buildings and grounds, said the grant money helps him fund projects he wouldn’t otherwise be able to do within the RSU 2 budget. He said his budget is decreasing every year. For next year, the operations and maintenance portion of the RSU 2 budget decreased by $31,820.

“I have three employees that are now under grant money that we are going to have to bring back,” Murray said. “My budget is not increasing, it’s decreasing.”

Murray also said the Simmons Fund helps him move his budget to other areas of RSU 2. For example, he said Richmond High School needs new drainage for its sports fields and will be able to get it done. The fund also helps him be able to undertake biannual maintenance on the tennis courts, which were another topic of discussion, as it was suggested the courts be replaced or moved in the coming years.

Hall-Dale Athletic Director Chris Ranslow suggested the tennis courts be part of the Simmons Fund five-year plan because like the track, the surface cracks and creates safety concerns. Gallagher asked if the location of the tennis courts posed a problem with track deterioration.

“I would have to dig into my geological past to see what it’s sitting on,” Ranslow joked. “I have no idea what it’s sitting on, if there’s a stream, or aquifer, I’m just spitballing. When and if we do rebuild, it would be best to choose a separate location.”

Creating cross country running trails through the woods behind Hall-Dale High School were also a topic of discussion for future plans, along with new fencing for the baseball field to ensure player safety. Baseball coach Bob Sinclair said the steaks on the current fence could pose an issue for players if they reach over it to catch a fly ball.

The next Simmons Fund meeting is scheduled for a tentative date in August.

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