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School board approves $30,000 for light installation at athletic complex

  • The bases of the new lighting poles, which will go into the ground, and the cement fixtures, on the ground near the bus barn. Veenstra Construction out of Oskaloosa will install the lighting. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Charles City School Board President Robin Macomber and Buildings and Grounds Director Jerry Mitchell discuss lighting for the new athletic complex at a special meeting on Wednesday. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Charles City school board directors Robin Macomber and Scott Dight, Superintendent Mike Fisher, and director Josh Mack before a special meeting Wednesday morning. (Press photo James Grob.)

By James Grob,

Members of the Charles City Community School District Board of Education met at the crack of dawn on Wednesday.

The special meeting was called to approve a proposal from Veenstra Construction out of Oskaloosa, in the amount of $30,000, to do the work necessary to set the bases for light poles and fixtures at the new athletic complex.

The installation work was originally expected to be done as a donation from MidAmerican Energy, but Superintendent Mike Fisher and Buildings and Grounds Director Jerry Mitchell explained that, upon a closer look, the lights the district is getting require a more complex installation than what MidAmerican was willing to attempt.

“They decided that was probably not within their scope,” Mitchell said.

The bid from Veenstra Construction came to $3,000 per light fixture, for a total of $30,000, which will come out of the project’s contingency fund.

“Veenstra Construction is who Musco lined us up with, so that’s where the bid came from,” Mitchell said. “They will be able to install all the lights, make sure the bases are dead-on, pour the cement, put the supports on and all that.”

Fisher said that there are three other work items that the board will need to consider regarding the baseball and softball fields. Contractors are still putting together final cost and numbers on those, but the proposal from Veenstra needed to be addressed immediately to avoid delay on the ongoing project. The other three work items will be addressed at future meetings.

In June, Musco Sports Lighting in Oskaloosa decided to donate all the lighting for the new baseball and softball fields. The donation, worth $400,000, was said to include equipment and installation for state-of-the-art LED lighting.

“These are really nice lights that Musco are donating, and we originally had a donation from MidAmerica energy to set the poles and install the lights for us,” Fisher said. “Due to the nature of the lights that we are getting — which Musco would tell you are some of the nicest lights in the country — it was a little above MidAmerican’s expertise.”

Mitchell said that so far, MidAmerican’s donation has been unloading the truck, which contained the bases of the lighting fixtures, with each weighing about 4,800 pounds.

“So they actually did a nice donation, unloading those,” he said. “These bases are about 14-feet long. They go in the ground and then you have to put cement around them, because of the size of the poles that are going up.”

Mitchell said that Veenstra does most of Musco’s installation work, and they are experts in the field. He added that precision is vital to the installation of the lights.

“You have to make sure that they’re dead-on,” he said. “If you’re a half-inch off down low, you’re probably about two feet off 50-80 feet up.”

Musco’s donation was made possible largely due to Diane Crookham-Johnson, a 1984 graduate of Charles City High School and one of the daughters of Joe Crookham, the principal owner, president and CEO of Musco Lighting, which has installed lighting systems at some of the biggest indoor and outdoor sporting facilities in the country.

Crookham-Johnson has her own law practice in Oskaloosa and is a former Iowa State Board of Education member, and has been involved with Musco for a long time. She said she and her father had been aware of the problems with flooding at the old softball and baseball fields and the efforts to raise money to build new ones on the Charles City campus.

“The complexity of these lights, as compared to what most schools put up, are above and beyond anything,” Mitchell said. He said one of the lights will be around 80 feet tall, and the rest will be about the same height as the football field lights. Twelve feet of those light poles will be underground, and about 60 feet will be above ground.

“The poles are constructed much differently than the ones on the football field,” school board President Robin Macomber said Monday. “These are heavy-duty poles. They’re very impressive.”

All board members were present Wednesday morning, although director Jason Walker attended the meeting remotely via speaker phone. Also present were Fisher, board secretary/treasurer Terri O’Brien and communications director Justin DeVore.

Director Scott Dight moved to accept proposal from Veenstra, and director Josh Mack seconded. The motion was approved 5-0.