City Council Votes Against Baseball
There's no crying in baseball, unless it's winter in San Angelo. Following the lack of a decision at Tuesday's City Council meeting on water rationing, San Angelo high school baseball and softball teams may all be benched this coming winter.
The San Angelo Independent School District appealed to City Council with what could be construed as blackmail Tuesday, when representatives asked for an additional 960,000 gallons of water to keep two baseball and two softball fields lush, while offering to cut off irrigation to other school properties, an estimated 5 million gallons in savings.
Should Council not comply, the SAISD threatened to continue irrigation on all properties, thus utilizing all 5 million gallons, a much deeper pool than the nearly 1 million they were asking for.
The school district proposed watering the two fields apiece at Lake View High School and the San Angelo Stadium 15 minutes a day for five days, followed by three weeks of watering twice weekly, each for about 10-15 minutes.
The watering on these fields is vital to both baseball and softball in San Angelo, as without adequate grass on the fields, they could be deemed unsafe for play and thus endanger participation in the sports.
Water Utilities Director Ricky Dickson spoke in approval of the school district’s proposal. “I believe with them willing to sacrifice some of their other watering it will be ok,” he said.
However councilman Fleming, who described his candidacy as having run on water, expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the school’s proposal, and identified the move as blackmail.
“We are not taking our water issues seriously…this city has got blinders on,” Fleming began. “When you’re saying you’re going to save the city 5 million gallons, you should be doing that anyway.” Fleming continued by stating that in 12 -14 months, when the city is bone dry, there won’t be any fields more anyway.
“Things are going to have to die,” Fleming continued. “I would rather have drinking water and water for my kids than this baseball field. “
The SAISD justified the need for the watering compromise as a need to not only maintain the fields vital to the school’s extracurricular activities, but also as a must for the survival of a planned seeding of rye grass, funded by tax dollars.
The seeds, however, have yet to be planted, and local farmer Lee Bell disagrees with the watering necessity, citing his own experience with rye grass on his property.
“I have no irrigation down there at all,” Bell said of his land around Lake Nasworthy. “I’ve done really well on a wet fall…I think this would be a good time to take a chance on this.” Bell suggested that the current wet fall weather was enough to sustain grass growth, especially if acted upon quickly.
But this is not a risk the SAISD is willing to take, especially not on the community’s dime.
“Well, we’re running out of time where the winter rye will take,” explained Elson in an interview. “There’s certain temperatures and certain weather conditions for winter rye to take—with the timing of the Council meetings, this was the closest meeting to the time we have to put it down,” he says.
Elson and his maintenance crews have already begun the raking and preparation process for the seeding, and are pending City approval for the water rationing issue. However, if they don’t move fast, the window of opportunity will close and all preparation will be for not, which perhaps explains the district’s bullish approach to the issue.
“So if we don’t give you this 960,000, you’re going to continue using those 5 million gallons?” councilman Silvas asked.
“I’m going to continue what I’ve been practicing,” SAISD Maintenance Director Jim Elson replied.
Fleming again cited this approach as a form of blackmail, however the school district maintained that this was not their intent, rather an effort to prioritize their needs and utilize their resources. These assertions were largely supported in public comment.
One San Angelo resident stated, “They’re making a reasonable offer. They’re taking their assets, and they’re putting a priority on it. They’re saving us a lot of money in the long run.” Others added the importance of maintaining areas for children to be physically active, and noted that the water saved makes the issue worthwhile.
The school district’s 5 million gallon poker chip is based upon water usage for the previous year. While the SAISD’s case saw support from some Council members and the public alike, Charlotte Farmer's absence resulted in a 3-3 stalemate, and the issue was put off to next meeting.
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