Many school and county officials agree that Hobbton High School and its students deserves a track, as it has the dubious distinction of being the only high school in Sampson without one. With local budgets stretched, funding the estimated $300,000 project is the issue.
Dewain Sinclair, chairman of the Sampson County Board of Education, spoke to the Sampson County Board of Commissioners about the matter during its meeting earlier this week.
“I come before you tonight to ask on behalf of the system, on behalf of our school board, on behalf of the Hobbton community, that commissioners respectfully take a look at helping fund this partially,” said Sinclair.
He said $100,000 has already been earmarked for the project, but that would only get them about a third of the way to the estimated goal.
“There has been a lot of effort by Jeff Klaves to rebuild the track program, and he’s done a great job,” Sinclair said. “Participation is at an all-time high. It’s been a pride for the community, but they are the only high school that doesn’t have a track.”
He noted that Klaves’ teams have had three individuals win state championship trophies, even while traveling to practice at Lakewood and Midway each day.
“All of that has been accomplished without a track. They’ve never had a home game,” said Sinclair, noting safety concerns and additional costs associated with student-athletes’ extra travel every day. “It’s much needed and we ask that you please consider it.”
He said the estimated cost range for the project is between $300,000 and $325,000. Several years back, the school board voted to set aside $100,000 for each district, to be used on special projects. Sinclair said $150,000 was being sought from the county “to help make this dream a reality.”
“It is our belief that this total would bring us to within $50,000 to $75,000 of completion of the track and field project,” he noted. “The remaining funding would be realized through community fundraising, donations and possible additional capital outlay funding in upcoming years at the discretion of the board.”
Any funding from the county would likely not be needed until next fiscal year, Finance Officer David Clack said. Commissioners did not act on the request, but said it would be taken into consideration.
“I think they definitely deserve a track,” Commissioner Sue Lee stated. “I’m afraid this would open us up — I’ve had several requests from different areas, and some schools, that ‘we need this, we need that.’ It makes me feel a little uncomfortable to fund one (over others).”
“This is not the first time this has come up,” Commissioner Harry Parker said. “This is something that is very needed for this school as they are the only one without this.”
Commissioner Clark Wooten made a motion to table the matter, given the absence of Commissioner Albert Kirby from Monday’s proceedings, to have a full board together to consider it further. In the past, including as part of budget deliberations, Kirby has cited Hobbton’s need for a track.
That need has been detailed in recent months by Al Britt, athletic coordinator for Sampson County Schools.
“The students at Hobbton High School deserve a track,” Britt said upon presenting plans for the project to the county school board in July. “Each year that we have a class that graduates, that’s a hundred-plus kids that didn’t have access to this facility. The sooner this can happen, the better. Every time we graduate a class, those are kids who missed access to something everybody in the county had.”
Along with the soccer field and track, the plans includes spaces for a high jump, pole vault, triple jump and long jump and shot put.
A cost of $200,000 was previously tossed around, based on estimates from Lakewood High School’s track construction. However, the Hobbton project is larger in scope. After several meetings among school officials, surveyors and Engineer Glen Tew, the project plan was to be sent to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for approval.
“We are confident they will approve it,” Sinclair told commissioners this week, calling it a formality. “Then we can bid the project out. The project at Hobbton is going to be more expensive. Of course (the Lakewood project) was six years ago and there’s going to be a little more dirt moved at Hobbton.”
In 2015, supporters made a presentation regarding a need for a track to school and county officials. Sinclair said a great deal of progress has been made since that time.
“We’re hoping to get this project in, with the help of county commissioners, for around $300,000 to $325,000,” Sinclair attested. “Once we get our plan approved with DPI we can submit bids.
“I know that’s asking a lot,” Sinclair said of the requested $150,000. “We appreciate everything you’ve done and everything you continue to do for us. I just want you to think about it.”
He said it was an unfortunate situation to have any high school, let alone the oldest high school in the Sampson County Schools system in Hobbton, lacking track and field facilities. Sinclair conceded that he had a vested interest in Hobbton, as three generations of his family attended the school. He said he hoped the funding request “falls on understanding and supportive ears” so that deserving students could benefit.
“If any one of our county’s high school campuses did not have a football field, basketball gymnasium or a baseball diamond, there would be an uproar of community disapproval,” he stated to commissioners. “We feel it is within this same sentiment that the track and field project at Hobbton High School deserves to be undertaken.”
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