Grandstand can be renovated by fall, official says


Money from a county land-acquisition fund could pay for renovation of the home grandstand at the Westminster High School stadium in time for the fall sports season, Vernon Smith, director of support services for Carroll County Schools, said yesterday.

"I'm optimistic that we will be able to award a bid in the spring," Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Smith said he will ask the Board of Education next week to transfer $180,000 from a land-acquisition fund to pay for repairing the grandstand, which the schools' insurer and two independent inspectors have said needs repair.

The request also must be approved by the County Commissioners.

The board will ask the commissioners to replace the $180,000 in the land-acquisition fund in fiscal 1996, Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Smith said the grandstand was never condemned or even declared unsafe by any outside agencies or companies.

But an insurance company inspector for Great American Insurance Co., the Carroll school board's insurer, told school officials in December that "the overall condition of the walk boards has deteriorated and the entire [walk board] system should be replaced."

Mr. Smith said he made the decision to close the stadium for the coming spring sports season after receiving three opinions that it needed repair.

In August, a representative from Dant Clayton Corp., a Louisville, Ky., engineering firm, said the grandstand needed repair.

Dant Clayton examined all high school stadiums in Carroll as part of a countywide plan to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The company said Westminster's home grandstand needed repairs in addition to the ramps and new seating platforms required for disabled spectators.

Mr. Smith said no one ever deemed the grandstand unsafe for the fall sports season.

Toward the end of the fall season, however, an inspector from another company also said the home grandstand needed repair, Mr. Smith said. And last month, the schools' insurer recommended repairs as well.

"It was my decision, at that time, because of the additional information, to advise [Westminster Principal Sherri-Le] Bream that the grandstand should be taken out of service for the spring season," Mr. Smith said.

"I'm not comfortable with putting thousands of people in that grandstand," he said.

Safety has been a concern before with the grandstand. A few years ago, a toddler fell about 6 feet to the ground below the bleachers and suffered minor cuts and bruises, Mr. Smith said.

"The parent had the child lying on a blanket where normally your feet would go," Mr. Smith said. "The child rolled back to the rear of the grandstand and fell through."

Since then, Mr. Smith said, he has been asking the commissioners to pay for installing kick-plates along the risers so there would be no such open spaces.

He said the request has always lost to other capital projects, but the proposed repairs to the grandstand would create seating without the dangerous openings.

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