Multiple Teams · GJ Gets $250,000 Upgrade

Published: Monday, July 4, 2016 at 7:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 4, 2016 at 7:29 p.m.

LAKELAND — George Jenkins High School will have a new rubberized track surface in time for the 2017 track season thanks to a $250,000 by former County Commissioner Bob English, the CEO of Valiant Products Inc. The donation was approved at the Polk County School Board meeting last week.

George Jenkins track coach Dale Meskiman has been the point man on getting the new track surface for the high school and has been adamant about how it’s done. The last time Jenkins’ track was resurfaced in 2004, it lasted barely a year. Poor installation allowed moisture to get under the track surface, causing the track to buckle and become warped.

“I’ve been working on it for years and finally found someone willing to put the money up,” Meskimen said.

English, whose daughter Emily is the top distance runner in the county and will be entering her senior year, stepped up.

“My daughter is involved in track and field and cross country, and I’ve attended several meets over the last three years,” English said. “Track and field, just the sport itself, attracts so many athletes with so many different talents. When I go there, I see the families rooting for their children, and I think it’s just a good family sport. It allows the individual athletes to develop team spirit and work as a team, but at the same time, they have the chance to get individual recognition. I just think it’s a sport that offers everything.”

There were three stipulations to his donation.

— First, he wants the installation done by All American Tracks Corp., which has installed tracks at many colleges, including Florida State, and high schools.

— Second, he wants to pay the contractor directly and not got through a bid process to insure the construction is done properly.

— Third, he would like the track be named the Bob English Family Track.

Meskimen encouraged English to make the first two stipulations.

“I do not want to bid it out because I already know who I want to do it,” Meskimen said. “I want it done right.”

Meskimen said he wanted to avoid having a project like this go to the low bidder because that’s what caused problems in the first place.

“When they re-asphalted the track, they went low-bid obviously, and the asphalt job was probably one of the worst asphalt jobs I’ve seen in my entire life,” Meskimen said. “This was the only way I was going to do it.”

And when the track was striped, that wasn’t done correctly, he said.

Meskimen told English that he could pay the contractor directly, and that way it wouldn’t have to be put up for bid.

“It’s the same way when Rodda (Construction) donated the new baseball locker room to Jenkins,” he said. “Everything was paid directly to the contractor.”

George Jenkins had a rubber track put in when the school was built, and it lasted about 10 years. It was replaced in 2004, and Meskimen said it wasn’t installed properly. He said the new track was put over the old sub-subsurface instead of laying down a new one, and it didn’t adhere. That allowed moisture to get in between the layers, and it caused the new track to bubble up.

“That’s why the new track is so costly, because I have to come back and fix things that the county did when they ripped up the second rubber track and lay down the crappy asphalt over it,” he said.

The original plan in May was to demolish the current track and redo the drainage system in July then come back in the fall when the weather was more favorable to install the rubber surface. Meskimen said now it might get done all at once, but he’s working with the construction company to finalize the schedule.

When English’s donation was discussed at a School Board workshop last week, concern was expressed about not having a bidding process.

“There are times when individuals do the contracting and present the finished product,” said Wes Bridges, the Polk County School District’s lawyer.

As far as English selecting the contractor, Bridges said that it could be done.

“They’d have to make sure the documentation tracked to make sure we don’t do anything wrong,” Bridges added.

Meskimen downplayed any potential problems.

“Obviously, I’m going to keep the county informed at every step, so they know what’s going on,” he said. “They’re going to see a copy of the plans before I move any dirt so they know what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. I just want it done right.”

The track is expected to be completed for the 2017 season, and Meskimen said he plans to host two or three meets during the season and also put in host a district meet.