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March 31st, 2009
Hays CISD cleaning up lighting mess

The roof at Oran Bales Gymnasium after a light pole at Bob Shelton Stadium snapped and landed on the gym roof three weeks ago, leaving a large hole. Photo by Hays CISD.


KYLE – Carter Scherff’s month as Hays CISD interim Superintendent just couldn’t go smoothly.

A week into his term keeping the chair warm for incoming Superintendent Jeremy Lyons, a light pole snapped at Bob Shelton Stadium. The pole landed on the roof of Oran Bales Gymnasium, puncturing the roof and exposing the gym floor to the elements.

Scherff was driving to Wichita Falls early on the evening of March 6 when he received a call from Hays CISD communications director Julie Jerome informing him of the disaster. Next, Scherff received a call from the district’s facilities manager, R.C. Herron.

“I was beginning to believe it was true,” Scherff said.

The matter has kept school officials occupied, trying to get the stadium in shape for graduation ceremonies in May. But it all began to close out Monday evening, when Lyon sat in on his first meeting and Scherff was “back to being deputy superintendent.”

The Hays CISD Trustees agreed Monday night to declare the light pole snapping an emergency, which allows the school district to expedite needed purchases to repair the stadium. The board will meet Thursday to vote on funding for the roof of Bales Gym.

Scherff told trustees that the district’s insurance will ultimately cover all the costs of repairs, except for a $25,000 deductible. To date, the school district has spent $111,215 to repair the damage.

Monday night, school officials recounted the events of the night the lights went down, thanking their luck that the damage wasn’t even worse.

“The first blessing was that no one was around to get hurt,” said Hays CISD Trustees President Chip DuPont. “The second blessing was that we had people who had never done this before, had a plan and executed it.”

Immediately after the light pole crashed, school officials closed the gym and stadium sites, secured them, then went about taking down the remaining three light poles. At Monday night’s meeting, the school district’s maintenance workers who toiled through the night on taking down the light poles received a long and loud ovation from school officials and local residents.

“We found stress fractures in three of the poles,” Scherff said. “After reading the engineer’s report, we did the right thing taking them down. It was only a matter of time before we had another accident.”

Scherff said the poles, installed as part of a renovation of Bob Shelton Stadium in 2002, were 125 feet tall and bearing loads of 4,000 pounds on the top. The replacement poles, he added, will be able to handle sustained winds of 90 miles per hour. But Scherff remained amazed that the old poles at Bob Shelton Stadium proved to be fragile.

“When you have something with a 35-year life, seven years in, you don’t have a right to be worried,” he said.

Scherff said there remain holes in the floor at Bales Gym. The floor will have to be sanded down and refinished.

But new lights for Bob Shelton are due to be in place before the graduation ceremonies and, that failing, replacement lighting has been arranged.

“When I first looked at this, I thought the process would take three or four months,” Scherff said. “But it’s not going to take that long.”

The light pole at Bob Shelton Stadium that landed on Bales Gym. Photo by Hays CISD.

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