Purcellville residents will have to wait a bit longer to find out how the town-owned Fireman’s Field complex will be managed in 2019.
A vote on a modification to the contract between the town and Shaun Alexander Enterprises for management of the 15.89-acre complex was once again delayed Tuesday night. With an agenda item originally set for the “approval of contract between the town and Shaun Alexander Enterprises for operation of the Bush Tabernacle,” Town Attorney Sally Hankins requested that the item be struck from the agenda after an hour-long meeting on the matter with council members behind closed doors.
Town Manager David Mekarski said that Tuesday night’s closed meeting marked the first time that the Town Council was given the chance to review the contract’s language and that council members provided recommendations for he and Hankins to work out with Alexander. “I think the review went well,” he said.
When asked whether the council would take action on the contract amendment before the end of the year, Mekarski said that if the town can reach an agreement with Alexander soon, Mayor Kwasi Fraser could call a special meeting for a vote. Otherwise, he said the council would most likely take action at its Jan. 8 meeting.
Fraser agreed, saying that taking action in the next two weeks would be unlikely. “We can try for it, but no guarantee,” he said.
It was the second time that an action item to approve a contract amendment has been removed from the Town Council agenda. The first was Nov. 13 when Mekarski requested its removal. There was no discussion or action item on the Nov. 27 Town Council agenda.
The last action that the Town Council took with Alexander, the former NFL running back whose company entered the contract a year ago, was on Sept. 25 when it voted unanimously to amend his contract to remove responsibility for maintenance of Fireman’s Field and to reduce his monthly rent payments from $10,000 to $4,000 for the remainder of 2018.
Hankins at that time said that negotiations were ongoing for the remaining portion of Alexander’s contract with the town, which expires in 2022.
On Oct. 2, the Board of Supervisors approved a lease agreement with the town for the county’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department to resume maintenance and operations of Fireman’s Field until April 2019. Additional contract changes were expected to be discussed during the Oct. 9 Town Council meeting, but never were.
On Nov. 1, Alexander subcontracted with Phil Message to allow the Purcellville Teen Center to again take over manage operations in the tabernacle, which it did from 2010 until the town terminated its contract nearly three years early in December 2017 to make room for Alexander to step in.
In the Town Council’s drive to privatize management and generate more revenue from the complex, it awarded a contract to Alexander on Nov. 14, 2017, with Alexander officially taking over on Jan. 1 this year. Alexander’s contract at that time required him to pay the town $120,000 in 2018 with annual payments increasing by $10,000 each year until 2022.
Since then, the deal has gone anything but smoothly.
In April, Play to Win—Alexander’s subcontractor that was handling day-to-day operations in the tabernacle—announced that user fees in the complex would be increased, which prompted the Upper Loudoun Youth Football League to search for another venue for its 2018 season.
Later Alexander requested a reimbursement from the town for initial cleanup, repairs and maintenance of the complex that was nearly $30,000 more than what the town was contractually obligated to pay. The Town Council in June voted to approve payment of only the contract’s $60,000 reimbursement.
In July, Play to Win backed out of its contract with Alexander. In August, Alexander informed the town that he would terminate his contract effective Sept. 1, but retracted his termination less than two weeks later after the town raised breach of contract concerns.