The Webster Parish School Board was at odds over what to do with the grandstands at Minden High School’s football stadium.
While some board members were ready to rebuild the stands in its current location, others said they were in favor of relocating the stadium.
In Monday’s meeting, Board Vice President Johnnye Kennon asked for a special called meeting to further discuss new information that came to light on things the Federal Emergency Management Agency would cover.
In past meetings, Maintenance Supervisor Buster Flowers consistently said that as long as the grandstands were in a certain category, FEMA would front the money to pay for reconstruction. If it is moved from that category, then there is no guarantee what the school board will receive.
“This has been put in Category G, which is a payment up front,” he said. “They did that for us to expedite this. The only way it could go in Category G is to put it back in the same place. Anything else goes back to Category E, which when it’s all done and we’ve paid for everything, and they look at it and they decide how much they will reimburse you. My understanding coming away from that meeting was that we were going to tear it down and put it back there.”
Flowers has since learned that as long as it stays in Category G, then FEMA would possibly reimburse for other things as well, such as the cost of the temporary bleachers, the moving of the press box for graduation and other temporary expenses.
The discussion started when District 6 Board Member John Madden approached the board with a letter he read from Sen. David Vitter’s office. In the letter, officials said the entire stadium could be relocated without the board incurring the entire cost.
“There’s a ton of options that could have been done,” he said. “The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act would give you some flexibility to move it if you so went that direction. The Hazard Mitigation Program would offer assistance and that is to remove buildings, raise elevations. It helps with real property acquisition in high hazard areas and elevation of flood prone areas.”
He went on to say that options need to be put out there, keeping the taxpayers, the football team, the coaches and alumni in mind.
District 8 Board Member Ronnie Broughton spoke up saying he didn’t feel it was right to have officials from FEMA telling the board two different things.
“I don’t know that we need to have two FEMA folks arguing about what’s going on in Minden, Louisiana,” he said.
“I think it was a bad move to contact Vitter. So now we’ve got some guy that’s doing what they said they were going to do, which seems reasonable and seems helpful to us. And then we’ve got others saying we could do it some other way, according to that letter.”
Flowers was appointed as FEMA’s main contact, and he told board members he was handling things under the assumption that the stands would be demolished and rebuilt in the exact same spot.
Wayne “Butch” Williams, a member of the District 6 committee, says the majority of the community members from that May 19 meeting were left with the impression the stands should be rebuilt in the same place.
“In that meeting that night, there were a lot of folks that were stirred up and upset,” he said. “The people in this town want those stands put back where they are. I have not heard anyone say they don’t want them to be there, except Mr. Madden. There’s so much history that’s there. When they left this room that night, they all felt better. They’d been told the truth, and they felt like that field was going to be put right back there. I feel like if we go out of this room tonight and it hits the newspaper, it’s going to hit.”
District 11 Jerry Lott made a motion to move forward to support Flowers’ efforts to keep the school in this particular category, and before a second was made, Kennon offered a substitute motion to hold a special meeting to further discuss the issue. The vote passed 6-5.
In the May 19 meeting, where the committee, made up of members who hold an interest in Minden High School football, the District 6 committee recommended the current grandstands be torn down and temporary bleachers be placed on the visitors’ side so the Crimson Tide could play football at The Pit this year.
The long-range plan for the grandstands has yet to be decided.
The special meeting has been set for 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 8, at Central Office, located at 1442 Sheppard St.