Friday, March 6, 2009

Play now, pay later!

Based on the "success" of the Richard Montgomery High School artificial turf deal where public school land is closed off, fenced in and turned over to a private entity, Walter Johnson High School will also be turning its public high school field over to a private entity.

Noteworthy, is that at the Richard Montgomery "pilot" project, the outside entity hasn't even started using the field yet! In addition, the RM field hasn't even been opened up to rentals through the Community Use of Public Facilities! But, no matter! Let's do it again even before we know if the "pilot" worked. And this time, let's take out a lease to increase the county debt! It's a great time to borrow money!

As reported
here, the Board of Education will not discuss this plan at their March 10th meeting. They will simply vote the plan through on the "consent" agenda. What is the plan? Well, you can read the memo that the Board of Education will see on March 10th, or you can read the memo (below) that was given to the County Council's Education Committee on February 23rd. Which memo gives the whole picture of the Walter Johnson High School artificial turf lease plan? (Hint, read the Feb 23rd memo below to the Council. The March 10th memo is just a bunch of "resolves" without any details.)

Don't miss the $9,000 annual contribution that will be required of the WJ Booster Club. Future WJ parents, you are committed and your kids aren't even there yet!

Last but not least, will this be another "no bid" procurement like the Richard Montgomery artificial turf? No point shopping around when you know what you want!



  1. Inquiring Minds Want to Know:

    Just a few questions:

    Regarding the proposed installation of an artifical turf field at Walter Johnson HS:

    1. The "Weast memo" dated February 10, 2009, and included in the Council packet from last month, states that there is a "revenue neutral" funding plan for the artificial turf field. Under "operating expenses", (the last page of the packet), the Annual debt service at 5% for 10 years is listed as $50,178. That sum, times 10 years, is less than the total amount being financed ($600K) through the lease financing arrangement. Is Walter Johnson HS going to be responsible for paying only the "finance charge" and MCPS will pay the rest of the long term debt financing for the project?

    2. Is the WJ turf field going to be the same size as the Richard Montgomery Artificial Turf Field (i.e., the size of a professional soccer field, as opposed to the size of a High School field)?

    3. Given that the project is using contingency funds for part of the installation cost, what will happen in the next 17 months if something happens with the WJ modernization and those contingency funds need to be used? Will the BOE approach the County Council for a supplemental appropriation?

    4. Has MCPS already contracted with a company to purchase and install the Turf at WJ? Is this being competitively bid or does MCPS plan to use the same "purchasing coop" as with the Richard Montgomery field. Is it possible that prices have changed in a year? Wouldn't it be a good idea to have competitive bidding for a project of this magnitude?

    5. The original WJ modernization plan called for a new irrigation system for the field. If there is going to be artificial turf, will there be a need for an irrigation system? Will that result in a "change order" and thus require some funds to be used from the "contingency fund?"

    6. Does the County Council ED committee understand that the MCPS/BOE is taking on long-term debt in the amount of $600,000 in order to finance this field?

    7. What other capital projects are being deferred? Or does MCPS plan to pay off the long-term financing arrangment through operating money?

    8. Has a contract been finalized with Bethesda Soccer, Inc?

  2. Looks to me like the annual payments at 5% interest, and to pay down the principal over 10 years would be over $77,000 per year, not just the 58,000 shown on the document.

    I can't see how there is any residual value at the end of the lease, there is certainly no asset to sell or return. I can't see how you could even cancel the least part way through as you can't separate the leased asset from the school or ground it sits on.

    Looks to me like this is really the issuance of long term debt disguised as a lease. MCPS is prohibited by law from issuing long term debt.

    I think MCPS owes the community a detailed explaination of this proposed transaction

    Bob Astrove

  3. If you want to know how the RM deal is financed, look in the Booster club minutes,

    Very little discussion, very few parents show up, very few parents are boosters. And a pretty sparse budget to be taking on this amount of debt for a field that they may not be able to use.

    RM must be planning to sell a lot of mulch to make the stadium work.


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