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Commentary: District saving money, but passing the buck to schools
by Dan Eckles
Jul 01, 2013 | 1430 views | 1 1 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Groundskeepers at Reed are challenged by a football field that struggles to get consistent turf growth.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Groundskeepers at Reed are challenged by a football field that struggles to get consistent turf growth.
You hear horror stories all the time about dumb decisions made by large bureaucratic agencies. Often times, one department makes a decision that another department in the agency would have shot down with a relatively simple reasoning. However, because the two agencies don’t communicate with each other, somebody else is left to clean up a mess down the road.

That’s the situation athletic officials at a few local high schools are left in. Some time in the past decade or so, a bean counter at the Washoe County School District pointed out that it would cost less to water school lands with effluent water.

That may have sounded fine and dandy at the time but I wonder if anyone asked what, if any, drawbacks could come with that. Far too often in life we forget that for every decision we make, there’s an equal opposite reaction. For instance, someone did ask, ‘if we use effluent water on the football field at Reed High, will it save us money?’ The answer was yes. But did anyone thoroughly examine the second question, ‘will there be added costs to using the effluent water.’

More often than not, that second question brings with it many more questions, especially if the answer is yes. Will it cut into or even offset the savings? Is it worth making the change?

Apparently, it’s just easier to answer that first question and ask the other questions later.

When you speak with coaches and administrators at Reed about field conditions, specifically the football/soccer field, they admit the field is not in great shape, but they are careful to condition their answers, often admitting too that the district and school are in a tough spot during in a budget crunch. They have to answer those questions with some political correctness. The district writes their paychecks so it’s hard to bite the hand that feeds you.

But, I won’t mince words. Here you have it. Reed’s football/soccer field is the worst playing surface in the Division I North. There are huge dirt patches, void of grass. It is bumpy and uneven. In short, it’s an eyesore.

A handful of schools in the district are mandated to use effluent water on their grounds. Thus Reed is not the only school facing the challenge, but for whatever reason, Reed is facing the biggest challenge. It’s field is in the worst shape.

Reed athletic director Ron Coombs said the school’s athletic department has dumped between 15 to 20 thousand dollars over the past four years into field maintenance. That’s just to get Reed fields where they are. Imagine where they’d be without that help from the RHS athletic budget.

Spanish Springs AD Art Anderson, whose school is also forced to effluent water, said his athletic department also spends thousands of dollars a year on field maintenance, expenses he’s sure would see a decline if the school didn’t face the challenges that come with caring for turf when using effluent water.

So while the district is saving money by using effluent water, Reed, Spanish Springs and other schools are using their own funds, not district funds, to help clean up the effluent mess. Essentially, the district is passing the buck to its own schools.

“I’d say over half of our athletic budget is put into maintaining our fields and that’s not including what our individual programs chip in just to get the fields at a level that we want to play on them,” Anderson said.

Additionally, there were initial set up fees to get the effluent water to the schools. School personnel must be certified to learn how to handle the effluent water so there are certification fees. Those are two expenses the district has already incurred to use the effluent water.

Now factor in the extra time put in by school personnel to overcome the challenges that come with using effluent water. I hope the district is getting a tremendous savings, because our student athletes are getting short-changed.

Reed is in bad shape. Effluent water usage has left the east Sparks school with a top layer of soil that is over-saturated with salt, making it nearly impossible to get consistent turf growth. What needs to be done is the football field and track need to be gutted. A proper foundation needs to be put down with proper drainage in place. Unfortunately, that’s a project with a price tag nearing $1 million.

Thus it won’t get done and because the school district has let the facility degrade, Raiders student athletes pay the price by using a substandard field and the community gets stuck staring at the eyesore it’s become.

Coombs admitted as much.

“At this point, that’s probably pie in the sky stuff. The amount of money it would take to jackhammer that stuff out … it’s an enormous amount of money.”

Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune’s Managing/Sports Editor. he can be reached via email at:

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July 02, 2013
They could put in field turf, with no maintenance for a lot less than the $1 million tag. Then just use the 10-12 years of it's life span to put away money for the replacement.
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