$18 million bond needed to repair Albee Stadium, district says

Eureka voters will decide on measure in March 2020

A sinkhole at Eureka High School’s Albee Stadium photographed in January. The Eureka City Schools Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Tuesday to put a $18 million bond measure on the March 2020 primary ballot to repair the stadium. (Provided by Eureka City Schools)
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This spring, Eureka voters will decide whether to save Albee Stadium.

The Eureka City Schools Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the placement of an $18 million bond measure on the March 2020 primary ballot that will pay to address sinkholes that have been popping up on the fields, increase access for people with disabilities and fortify the stadium against earthquakes.

“This is not an ideal situation,” school board Trustee Mario Fernandez wrote on Facebook, “but given the circumstances and condition of Albee Stadium, this is the best decision we could make wholly as a board.”

For the average property owner, Eureka City Schools Superintendent Fred Van Vleck said that would mean paying an additional $17 per $100,000 of assessed value on their properties per year.

“The average assessed value around here is in the $200,000 range,” Van Vleck said. “That means your average homeowner will pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $34 per year.”

That will be enough to cover the 40% match the school district needs in order to receive the remaining 60% of funds from the Office of Public School Construction, through which the state provides funding for school construction projects, Van Vleck said.

Without a new bond, Fernandez wrote on Facebook that the only source of local funds would be the general fund, resulting in cutting programs and staff, or reallocating existing bond money.

However, Van Vleck said existing bond funds from Measure F have largely already been spent on other upgrades.

Once those projects are done, Van Vleck said “that bond is exhausted.”

“We don’t really have a Plan B,” Van Vleck said. “We won’t have the money it would take without the assistance of the voters.”

The primary cause of the sinkholes, which have been popping up over the past couple years, are culverts that are 14 feet underground and failing, Van Vleck said. The district dug down and repaired the sinkholes and culverts, but further inspection revealed the culverts were in worse condition than previously thought.

“When you have a culvert 14 feet down in the ground, you can’t do annual maintenance or annual inspections,” Van Vleck said. “It just goes until it fails.”

After a structural engineer came in and assessed the situation, the district got a letter of concurrence from the city of Eureka in June, enabling it to seek matching funds from the Office of Public School Construction for an emergency hardship, Van Vleck said.

Because the culvert is 14 feet underground, repairing it will mean “all sorts of collateral damage,” Van Vleck said, including damage to the track, so the repairs will end up triggering “a bunch of things we need to do to the whole facility.”

The district is using that as an opportunity to turn Albee Stadium into an all-weather facility that can invite more people in, he said.

“Albee Stadium needs to be brought up to current, health, safety, earthquake and disability access standards,” Eureka High School Principal Jennifer Johnson said in a statement. “Upgrading the stadium will also enable it to be used effectively as an emergency evacuation site in unpredictable or catastrophic emergencies, such as wildfires and (Pacific Gas & Electric) power outages.”

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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