Volunteers set to tackle Wescott

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 6, 2000

After at least two years of prep work and more years of discussion and grumbling, the drive to renovate Wescott Field is ready to meet the public.

Tuesday, June 06, 2000

After at least two years of prep work and more years of discussion and grumbling, the drive to renovate Wescott Field is ready to meet the public.

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A meeting to organize volunteers and explain the renovations and costs is set for 7 p.m. Monday in the Ellis Middle School commons area.

Preliminary work for the renovation already has started. The approval of a $68,000 loan to move a baseball field from Wescott to Todd Park by the Austin City Council Finance Committee on May 21 means city staff are beginning to prepare the ground at Todd Park. The no-interest loan from the city is the spark that volunteers hope to fan into a flame of private donations.

The estimated total cost of the project is $4.2 million.

"It is critical to note that this project will not be funded from general fund monies," schools Superintendent James Hess said. "We won’t be using school district capital for the project."

Hess said no school staff will be lost as a result of the renovations because the money will come from a different funding stream.

At Monday’s meeting, the Wescott Steering committee – comprised of school board members Amy Baskin and Dave Simonson and school district administrators Al Eckmann and Naomi Hatfield – along with Hess plan to organize a drive similar to the one that got the funding referendum passed in 1999. There will be five committees: a speakers bureau, an employee relations committee that also will work with the student body, a business-community relations committee, an alumni relations committee and an information-media relations committee.

"There are so many options and opportunities for fund raising," Baskin said, pointing to an overhead that listed things like service clubs, class reunions, students, business donations, a pop contract and a number of other possible sources.

"If we can get our hands on some charitable gambling money, that would be great," Baskin said. "We’ll take anything."

The money will be channeled through the Austin Public Education Foundation, making donations tax deductible. Baskin also discussed plans to have donor clubs, in which membership is awarded at certain donation levels, and the idea of the floor on the wall using benches from the stadium instead, which would somehow be named for the donors.

Also Monday, the school board voted unanimously to change the location and time of its monthly public meetings to make them more accessible to the public. The meetings will be at 6:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Austin City Council Chambers on the lower level of the Municipal Building at 500 Fourth Ave. NE. Holding the meetings in Council Chambers will also allow the board to tape the meetings, which could be played on public access cable Channel 6.

District officials hope to have the change in place for a July 10 meeting, but were waiting confirmation from the city this morning.

The board also decided to incorporate the question-and-answer session into the delegation portion of the meeting, so that they could proceed with the meeting if there were no citizens wanting answers to questions not on the agenda.

"I want to be sure we won’t be preventing people from speaking by doing this," board member Bev Nordby said. She was assured that delegates could call ahead to get on the agenda first or fill out a delegation card at the meeting.