Work on Vidalia, Ferriday football fields to begin this summer

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 15, 2023

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VIDALIA, La. — The Concordia Parish School Board on Thursday engaged Bryant Hammett & Associates LLC to begin working on Ferriday and Vidalia High School football fields this summer.

Whether both fields will be done in time for football season in the fall remains to be seen.

Both fields boast new pressboxes overlooking old fields that may pose a trip hazard to players and fill up with water whenever it rains, school officials said.

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It’s estimated resodding the football fields with natural grass would cost around $250,000.

Superintendent Toyua Bachus said specs for the fields should be drawn by May 15, and from there the board can approve to advertise and accept bids from contractors by its June meeting. Construction would begin around July 1, which puts the workers in a tight pinch to have the fields finished by football season.

“It will be pushing it,” Bachus said. “The contracts have to be approved and signed to get this timeline. If we wait a month, it will be a September completion and football starts in August.”

Vidalia High School Principal Bernie Cooley suggested working on one field at a time, so if there are weather delays to construction, the teams would have the option to play on the other school’s field.

In other matters, the school district’s director of business affairs Tom O’Neal requested the board seek to hire a third party to look at salary adjustments for all the district’s employees.

“The reason I say that is because you’re dealing with personalities,” he said. “You’ve got in excess of 550 people here and of those 550 you may know 215 of them but you don’t really know what kind of job they’re doing but you know them as an individual. You can’t make financial decisions like that.”

The school board asked its finance committee to look at adjusting the district’s salary scale last month when an employee, who happens to be related to newly elected board member Fred Marsalis Sr., asked the board to adjust his pay.

Fred Marsalis Jr., who is the business manager for the school district and oversees payroll, said the workload for his department doubled when the district moved to bi-monthly pay instead of monthly.

The board voted to proceed with seeking a third party to adjust the salaries Thursday. Board members Marsalis Sr. and Derrick Carson abstained from voting.

The school board previously received proposals from three school bus companies, including the currently contracted Durham School Services, Eco Ride and Jones Student Transportation that are still in review.

Durham School Services’ proposal comes to $1,403,766 annually; Eco Ride’s is $1,673,880.86 annually and Jones Student Transportation’s proposal is $1,487,700 annually.

O’Neal said the transportation committee needs more time to review the proposals for school bus services next school year.

The proposals are scored according to the district’s need with price being considered but not the deciding factor, he said. No actions regarding the school bus contract were taken Thursday.

During committee reports, Rhonda Moore, who chairs a special committee looking into building a new central office for the school district, said the committee had its first meeting on March 22.

“Our goal is the construction of a new central office building that will be owned by the school board. We know that this goal is not an overnight thing. There are many, many objectives that will go along with this, so that was the purpose of our meeting — to identify first steps.”