MCKENZIE BRIDGE, Oregon (STPNS) -- FINN ROCK: “We built the track for three main reason - for the school to use, for the community, and hopefully to do some things for economic development,” says George Letchworth, president of the governing board of the McKenzie Community Track & Field. Since its start in 2003 the group has constructed an eight-lane track with a Beynon surface, a discus ring and javelin runway, long and triple jumps, plus a pole vault and two shot put sectors on just under 20 acres. Soon, a newly constructed building with equipment storage, meeting space, a conference room, and a wellness/fitness classroom - along with two offices and a food concession venue - will be unveiled at a public open house.

Much of the funding has come from Aaron and Marie Jones and their Seneca Timber Company that purchased the old Blue River Veneer mill site decades ago.

Recent discussions of the McKenzie School Board have touched upon what sort of financial relationship should exist between the district and the track. At the December meeting board member Elizabeth Carr gave an overview of what had been recorded in meeting notes going back several years. In a number of instances, the minutes mention a reluctance by the district to take on any direct dollar support - after the business manager wrote a $13,000 check to the track in April of 2003. Carr also cited several instances when the school superintendent and board reiterated a position of support for the facility but said they would not be able to provide any substantial support funds. Although a track usage agreement was signed in 2010, any cost commitments were left unresolved.

“My experience is that when you’re involved with another entity, like a school, you need to have a clear usage agreement,” according to Letchworth. With that in mind, he sent the school a $2,000 invoice last year. After waiting for months he sent another.

“When we got the $2,000 bill, we were told we should be paying for electricity along with this and that,” recalls school superintendent Sally Storm. “We were really surprised, and asked them to break it down for us.”

What happened next is a little unclear. Letchworth said he was waiting for a response. So does Storm.

“This year the $2,000 was changed to $4,700 and we got another bill for $4,700 for this year too,” according to the superintendent. “We want to use the track but paying that would be detrimental to all our other sports. We just can’t do it. What we were thinking of was a nominal $200 as an honorarium.” Currently the district provides $40,000 in general fund dollars for athletics. All team members have to raise money to buy their uniforms, she added.

Several school board members thought that when the district held a meet at the track, the facility benefited because it operates concessions that previously helped the school. “I don’t even want to entertain a fee schedule,” said Debbie Totten. “That assumes we have an obligation - whatever that may be.” Kent Roberts was concerned that many community people who supported the track to benefit kids would be upset, “If they learned they were asking, ‘Where’s our money?’”

Carr said she was now acting as a liaison with the track’s board and hoped to have an updated report when the school board meets again on February 19th.