Four years after an agreement was initially drafted between Maury County Public Schools and the city of Columbia, some school board members are sharing concerns about how the deal has turned out.
Under the current agreement, Columbia’s parks department is tasked with maintaining the athletic facilities at E.A. Cox Middle School along Bear Creek Pike.
However, board members say the property is not currently kept up to typical standards of operation.
The memorandum was initially drafted in 2017, as the city government sought land adjacent to the school to build a new firehouse in an area that was previously underserved by the department.
A total of about 40.7 acres of property owned by the school district was granted to the city to build the new fire station and establish an accompanying green space. The resulting firehouse, Columbia Fire & Rescues’ Station No. 3, is now completed and operating on land granted to the city by the school district.
In exchange, the municipal government agreed to upgrade the school’s athletic fields to “normal city standards,” including upgrading the campuses’ playing surfaces, bleachers, netting and dugouts.
The city has also built a walking trail on the land, but school leaders are concerned about the maintenance of the athletic facilities almost exclusively used by its students.
“Not all city fields are created equally. There is a different level of attention given to facilities across the county. We have had challenges. Some of it can be manpower. Some of it could be a minimum standard. I am not quite sure.”
– said Chris Poynter, MCPS director of athletics and arts, during a work session this week.
Jake Wolaver, MCPS attorney, recommended that the board formally request that the ownership of the facilities at E.A. Cox to be returned to the school district.
Kristen Parker reminded fellow board members that the school system relies on city facilities to host athletic programs at another campus, including Whitthorne Middle School, which uses Columbia’s Fairview Park to host baseball practices.
Students also use tennis courts at Woodland Park to practice.
“We might want to be a little careful about biting the hand that feeds us when that is the only facility that we have to offer unless we want to come up with a different solution.”
– Parker said.