Did I read correctly that Durango High School plans on firing teachers next year because of budget cuts but wants a million bucks to install fake grass on its football field? Are these people nuts? Can't something be done? - Flabbergasted
In any other era, this might have provoked an irate mob to tar and feather someone.
Times are different, and no scoundrels have been tarred and feathered in a good while.
Maybe this explains why local politicians won't rescind the ban on backyard chickens. Our leaders want to restrict the supply of feathers available to angry vigilantes.
Law and order trumps personal poultry. But that's beside the point.
Anyway, you're not mistaken. Durango School District 9-R is bracing for possible reductions while at the same time pursuing a synthetic turf option for the DHS football field.
Don't blame the school district. It's just following the recent trend of institutions shooting themselves in the foot.
For instance, the Colorado Department of Transportation proudly erected at Grandview a massive Bridge to Nowhere without first getting road-building funds or securing highway rights of way.
And don't get Action Line started on the wisdom of ripping up downtown sidewalks during tourist season.
Then there's those automobile executives pleading poverty while flying corporate jets to Washington and bailed-out banks thinking no one would mind fabulous Las Vegas junkets and swanky spa massages.
OK, that's not a fair comparison.
But you gotta admit that a school budget crisis and gridiron upgrade go together just about as well as the city cutting health care funding while spending $550,000 on Chapman Hill snowmaking.
Both of these ill-timed initiatives illustrate a sad but unavoidable fact of restricted budgeting. You can't mix capital expenditures (stuff like buildings and equipment) with operations (paychecks and day-to-day expenses).
The school district is quick to point out that the plan for synthetic grass began more than a year ago, when times were better and enrollment projections more robust, according to district spokeswoman Dyan Lee.
Keith Owen, school superintendent, also cited a host of reasons supporting artificial turf. On the district's Web site, there's a document stating the case for the project. You can download it by visiting http://tinyurl.com/b5rxhg.
In a nutshell, the current field needs to be recrowned and have new sprinklers installed, a $250,000 job that would be eliminated with fake grass, he said. Moreover, a plastic field could be used yearround by sports other than football, he added
Then there's the money issue. The district would pay $100,000, with the city and county each kicking in the same amount. The cash comes from a special rotating fund that can be used only to cover facilities and equipment costs. (There's that pesky restricted budget issue.)
So that leaves the field nearly three-quarters of a million short, which DHS Athletic Director Sheldon Keresey hopes to raise in grants and private funds.
Owen said no money other than the 100 grand will come from the district, and "if the money is not raised this year, it (the artificial grass conversion) won't happen."
Don't stock up on carpet-burn ointment just yet.
There's this little thing called a recession, which affects people one of two ways. Folks without money are totally broke and those with money feel totally broke.
A privately funded field of dreams will almost certainly remain just that.
Which is kinda too bad from a comic standpoint. What would be a more fitting attraction for a "faux town" than broad sweeps of glossy plastic grass?
The Mea Culpa Mailbag was noticeably thin this week, and surprisingly, no one answered the Presidents Day "you can request anonymity" challenge: "identify the nonpresidents on America's paper currency. (Hint: there are three of them.)"
The answer is Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, Ben Franklin on the $100 bill and Salmon P. Chase on the $100,000 bill. Chase was secretary of the Treasury under Abe Lincoln and oversaw the first printing of paper money in the United States.
E-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Speaking of money, you can request anonymity if you can figure out how many bake sales, car washes and spaghetti dinners are needed to raise $750,000.