Following last year’s management turnovers at the Town of Purcellville’s Fireman’s Field complex, the county parks department could return to its roles as the sole operator of the athletic fields for this year and next.
The Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to authorize Town Manager David Mekarski and Town Attorney Sally Hankins to negotiate a new contract for the maintenance, operation and management of Fireman’s Field with the county for a period ending June 30, 2021, with an option to extend that another five years. The proposed termination date corresponds with that of the town’s contract with Shaun Alexander Enterprises for the management of the Bush Tabernacle.
Mekarski said that if the town strikes a deal with the county, he and Hankins would bring the contract before the Town Council for a vote. If that happens, he said that the town could save up to $40,000 in field maintenance via in-kind contributions from the county, but would miss out on advertising revenue opportunities.
Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), who was the first to suggest to the town that the county resume maintenance of the field when the Upper Loudoun Youth Football League left after playing 49 seasons at the complex last April, said that he’s happy to hear that the town sees the benefit of continued county maintenance.
“I’d like to see a long-term agreement in order to ensure consistency, proper operations and maintenance, and reduced costs for our youth leagues,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be great if [the youth league] returned home.”
Mekarski said “the invitation is certainly always open [for the league to return].”
The town staff has already met with the county to discuss the possibility of a new contract, Mekarski said that he would do a walk-through with county staff to determine which areas of the field are need of upgrades or repairs before presenting those findings to the Town Council. “Public safety is paramount,” he said.
Mekarski also mentioned that the utility and electric accounts for the field and tabernacle would need to be separated, since they were merged when Alexander took over management of the entire 15.89-acre complex in January 2018 as part of the Town Council’s plan to generate more review from the town-owned property. Once that’s done, the county will pay for utility and electric usage at Fireman’s Field, Alexander will pay for it in the tabernacle and the town will pay for it at Dillon’s Woods.
The Loudoun County Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services has maintained the field since November, following a period of uncertainty as to who was managing it. The county at that time agreed to maintain the field at no cost to the town until May 8, 2019 to ensure that the field would be properly winterized, according to a staff report.
Before November, Alexander had agreed to manage the entire complex from Dec. 30, 2017 to Dec. 29, 2022, replacing the county’s management of the field after 33 years and the Purcellville Teen Center’s management of the tabernacle after more than a decade. Alexander was required to pay the town $120,000 in rent in 2018.
In August, Alexander informed the town that he would cease management of the complex. That was four months after the youth football league announced that it wouldn’t return to the complex for its 50th season, following an announcement from Play to Win, Alexander’s subcontractor from January-July, that it would hike user fees.
Alexander rescinded his termination less than two weeks later when the town informed him that it would be a breach of contract.
On Sept. 25, after weeks of negotiations, the town eliminated Alexander’s responsibility to maintain the complex’s athletic fields and to reduce his monthly rent payments from $10,000 to $4,000.
On Oct. 2, the Board of Supervisors approved a 6-month lease agreement with the town to resume maintenance and operations of the athletic fields. That went into effect Nov. 8.
Alexander also subcontracted with the teen center on Nov. 1 to once again manage operations in the tabernacle.