(Ed. note: Prior to this week's storm damage to the lighting system at Cherokee Washington High, the school had already planned to replace the aged lighting system at George Hicks Field. The new system was scheduled to arrive this week. Much of this article was written prior to Thursday's storm)
Heavy straightline-winds damaged five of the lights at George Hicks Field at Cherokee Washington High School during the early morning hours on Thursday, snapping four of them in half and bending another, plus damaging a sidewalk light at George Hicks Field.
The system, which is more than 50 years old and in a state of decline and disrepair, was estimated to have a replacement cost approaching $200,000, according to Cherokee Superintendent Dr. John Chalstrom and the Cherokee Board of Education. That estimate was made prior to this week's storm damage.
Chalstrom advised the School Board at a recent meeting that the funds for such a project will come from the District's PPEL (Physical Plant and Equipment Levy) Fund.
Last October, Chalstrom solicited an analysis and evaluation of the football and track and field lighting system at George Ficks Field from MUSCO Lighting of Oskaloosa and Muscatine, and representative Frank Heys attended a Management Team meeting with the Cherokee Board of Education to present his findings.
Heys told the Board that the system, consisting of old, wooden poles, faulty wiring, and aged transformers with spare parts no longer available, was, in effect, an accident waiting to happen.
Heys cautioned the Board that a lighting failure caused by lightning, high winds, or storms would render the system unusable and "would take a long time to repair."
Other problems associated with the existing system are the topography where the light poles are now located, the all-weather track that would prohibit driving boom trucks or heavy equipment on it, and the fact the wiring shows that much of the insulation has been worn off or gone completely.
Heys estimated $180,000 to replace the system with new, high-efficiency MUSCO Lighting. That figure would be for 50 candle power, which would be easily enough lighting for the track and football field, and the corners. Heys said 40 candle power lights also would do the job at a cost estimated at $150,000. Those figures do not include removal of the existing poles and wires, the recommended architect and engineering fees, estimated to be 10-percent of the total project cost, according to Chalstrom, or any fees associated with the electric provider.
Heys advised the Board that the new MUSCO lighting would include four 80-foot tall poles, rather than the six now utilized, and that the new "green" lighting structure, because of its efficiency, would save the School District 50-percent operating costs and reduce spill and glare 50-percent.
The targeted system also eliminates spill and glare from lighting up area neighborhoods, and includes security lighting on the back of the poles.
MUSCO furnishes all materials and technical instruction only, and the District would have to bid out the installation to a contractor.
Included in the project is a 25-year warranty by MUSCO covering any materials and labor for repair, except for any "acts of God" such as storms. lightning strikes, etc. MUSCO monitors its systems by remote from Oskaloosa and can determine any problems that crop up or may be forthcoming, said Heys of the free preventative maintenance warranty.
Following Heys's presentation, Chalstrom advised the Board that they faced four major decisions - whether to pursue the project, financing the project, whether to hire an architect or engineer, and whether to bid the installation to a contractor or soliciting volunteer labor. The Board ultimately approved the project.
At Monday's special Board meeting, Chalstrom said he is in the process of securing an electrical engineer by April 1 to draw up the specifications, with bids expected to be let in Mid-May.
The engineer will send Chalstrom a preliminary cost estimate (based on past projects of similar scope) to be reviewed. The installation labor - either by volunteers and support staff, or professionals, has yet to be decided.
Although not the only one, MUSCO is the recognized leading recreational and athletic lighting company in the country, specializing in high school and college athletic lighting.