This image shows the addition of a building and new field at Noble Park as part of a proposal sponsored by the Hiawatha Baseball and Softball Club.

The Hiawatha School Board heard from board members from the proposed Championship Sports Complex for baseball and softball teams at Monday night’s meeting.

Troy Kolb, board member of the sports complex organization, along with Jeff Moore and Noel Boye appeared before the school board. He asked the school board for a commitment of $200,000 toward what he termed “a premier” sports complex that would potentially be built at Noble Park in three phases. The facility would include a renovated Paul Rockey Field with turf infield, an indoor practice facility and an adjacent softball field — also with turf.

The first phase of the project would be an indoor practice facility at an approximate cost of $300,000 and Kolb said the group would like to start construction on this fall if they received the $200,000 commitment from the school. He said the city owns the property and is considering a long-term lease to the school district if the school board would agree to it.

Kolb said they were looking for the school to partner with the board in this facility, which would be for community use as well, including youth programs — not just school baseball and softball teams. The $200,000 would be seed money for Phase I of the three-phase overall project — which is estimated at $1.5 to $1.8 million.

Kolb said by the school district partnering with the board — which also included other board members Ryan Meininger, Curt Weldon, Luke Moore, Ryan Van Peursem and Kelly Johansen — this would open up possibilities to obtain grant funding. He also mentioned they had partnered with the Hiawatha Community Foundation to be a fund where residents can donate to.

Board member Amy Kopp asked whether the board had any money currently invested in the project and Kolb said not yet, that the group’s board members had pledged money.

School board member Ian Schuetz said he would like to see “pen to paper” so-to-speak on a potential lease agreement with the city to determine maintenance and other specifics on ownership of the property. He said it sounded like a good idea, but also expressed concern about the use of turf — which is considerably more expensive — along with the ultimate initial price tag of $200,000 for the school board to commit.

Kolb said the turf would last 10 years minimum and at maximum 15-20 years — depending on usage. However, he said it would make the fields more usable during inclement weather and is safer for athletes. He also mentioned that maintenance costs for things such as marking and dragging the field wouldn’t be needed.

School board members asked other questions concerning similar fields in other communities and fund raisers that were conducted in order to bring those projects to fruition. Schuetz also questioned whether money from the city’s quarter-cent sales tax could be used to help fund the project and Kolb replied that he met with city officials who said the money has already been earmarked for other city recreation projects.

The school board did not commit any funds to the project but approved to sign a letter of support so Kolb could take that to the city in order to proceed with potential leasing of the property.

In other business:

Sarah Kleopfer, administrator of the Hiawatha Chamber and Visitors Bureau, presented an award for Organization of the Year to the board. She said the district was nominated and voted on by the public and Chamber members for this annual honor — obviously grateful for all the school district has done for the students and staff this past year, especially in wake of the pandemic.

District Maintenance Director Chris Morey updated the board on capital improvement projects including providing information about the company who bid $8,500 to tuck-point the bricks on the southwest corner and the chimney of Hawthorne House. The board voted to set the project in motion by hiring the contractor for this.

He also discussed driveway maintenance at the schools, along with security improvements that concerned board members following their annual facility tour in late March. There are facilities — including the wood shop and ag building, along with the bus barn that do not currently have security cameras.

Other items of concern included concrete repair in various areas of the district.

The board discussed bond refinancing opportunities with a financial advisor, Dustin Avey of Piper of Piper Sandler, who said the district could save money and interest and pay off the current bonds early. They asked him to appear in person at the May board meeting to provide additional information.

As part of the Consent Agenda, the board accepted the resignation of elementary school para Cassie Smith, approved to hire Kathy Kliewer as assistant director of the HHS musical, and approved renewal of the KASB membership, educational season pass and contract for legal assistance fund for $14,752.93.

Following an Executive Session for action affecting a student, the board voted to approve an early graduation request.

Following an Executive Session for non-elected personnel, the board voted to hire Alec Rodvelt as HHS ELA Teacher, Lyssia Johnson as 3rd Grade Teacher, Whitlea Simmons as HHS Assistant Volleyball Coach and Andrew Jones as Systems Administrator.

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