To refine an agreement allowing the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District to use Wilton’s new softball field, school representatives met with the Wilton Village Board on Tuesday. 

N-O-W Superintendent Travis Anderson, along with athletic director Ken Clinton and board member Kevin Bauman, attended the meeting, as did Wilton’s attorney, Penny Precour. 

Ben Richter, who works with the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, serves as the school district’s counsel and is helping formulate an agreement as well. The Wilton Village Board agreed to a 25-year agreement with N-O-W. 

The agreement is slated to be on the agenda for both boards’ meetings, which are set for Monday, March 11. 

Anderson thanked the village board for its efforts in accomplishing the project, saying, “It’s going to be great. Now, first of all, I want to thank you guys for even taking on that project. So many people have complimented the field itself when they’ve driven by. They say they can’t wait for it to happen. It’s going to be wonderful.”

N-O-W has used the baseball field in Wilton for more than 20 years. When residents approved a $24.9 million referendum in April 2023 that in part called for a new track and football field, the district asked the Village of Wilton if it would create a new softball field, as the school’s existing field would be displaced by the new athletic complex. The Wilton Village Board approved N-O-W’s proposal. 

Board member’s authority questioned

The board approved a $74,510 contract with Dirt Monkey Excavating in March 2023, and that is the only motion on record concerning softball field costs. But expenses exceeded the $74,510 by roughly $65,000 (final figures have not been set). 

Board president Missy Coldren requested that the village get bids for the final items, including electrical and water, “because we’re already over budget.”

“What budget?” replied board member Sam Wildes, who is coordinating the project. 

Coldren said, “What we approved for the field.”

Wildes said, “Which is Dirt Monkey, and their bid for the scope of the work.”

Coldren, “All I’m saying we are over the amount the motion approved. That’s the only motion that was ever made. I can’t help that. All I’ve asked for is quotes for the rest of the stuff.”

Wildes authorized those extra costs beyond the $73,510 on his own, Wilton board members have said, arguing that Wildes shouldn’t have unilaterally approved expenses related to the project; rather, the expenses should have been brought to the full board.

But in his defense, Wildes implied that when the board approved a $250,000 line of credit for the project in January 2023, that action gave him permission to authorize additional softball expenditures.   

Coldren said, “The problem we have is when we go to the bank to get money, they want to see the motion (in the minutes).”

Wildes said, “I have had the same numbers for a year. It has not changed. It’s under the original budget,” apparently referring to the $250,000 credit limit. 

Dirt Monkey’s bid was only for the landscaping and the fence, Wildes added. 

At the end of the meeting, acting on its attorney’s suggestion, the board agreed to essentially retroactively approve the extra expenses, along with future expenses, beyond the $74,510 that was originally approved. The amount was capped at $150,000 total.  

Precour said, “There should be something in the record that says you guys approved more money for this.”

Board member Roger Wilchinski voted against that measure, saying, “I don’t think $150,000 is going to be enough.”

“I guarantee it will be,” Wildes said.

N-O-W provides preliminary notes on agreement

Anderson gave the board “talking points” that could serve as a basis for an agreement. Both attorneys also have copies of the notes. Excerpts of it follow:

• “The school district will be responsible to prepare and line the fields prior to games for high school softball and baseball, as well as summer rec contests.”

• “The school district will bring its field maintenance equipment (rakes, shovels, drags, etc.) to Wilton for use on the fields and will provide the lime for lining the field.”

Anderson said, “We have no issue doing that. Obviously, we have a lot of that equipment from the previous field that we had that is no longer in use because we’re constructing a track at the school on the same property.”

• “N-O-W has provided and installed new bases for the field.”

At that point, Anderson noted, “Ken (Clinton) and Sam (Wildes), who have done a tremendous job getting the field to where it is right now, have installed the new bases. Those were obviously donated brand new from the school.”

• “Wilton will be responsible for cutting the grass on the fields, providing trash receptacles, and emptying the receptacles. 

• “Wilton should provide access to water and electricity for both fields. 

At that point, board member Lorrie Bever asked if the school district would help cover the cost of running water and electricity to the field. 

Anderson replied, “That would have to be run by our board members. Do I think it’s feasible? Yes. I think it’s also noted that it’s been provided at the baseball field for over 20 years.”

“It get it. But this was a big expense for our community,” Bever said. “This is going to be an additional expense every year. We need to maybe have some reimbursement.”

The electrical will cost $5,400, according to Wildes. He said he had not yet obtained a price on the cost of running the water. 

So far, the water has been roughed in underground, and the district will provide the sprinkler. 

In the end, the board generally agreed that electrical and water service was part of the field’s construction and that the village would cover those costs. 

• “During the offseason, Wilton will prepare the fields for non-school and non-summer rec events.” 

• “The school district will bring its UTV to Wilton to maintain the fields during the high school softball and baseball seasons. If possible, the UTV will be stored in Wilton. After the high school baseball and softball seasons, the UTV will be moved back to Brookwood for use in fall sports seasons. If N-O-W uses the village UTV, we’d gas it up and be responsible for any damages.” 

At its last meeting, the village board balked at the idea of sharing half of its garage with the school district, which Wildes said Wilton had offered to the school. 

According to Wildes at Monday’s meeting, the district would use the garage during the spring and summer only. And public works employee Nick Coleman said the village could find room for the UTV during non-winter months, although it would be intermingled with the village’s equipment. 

Anderson added, “We were never under the assumption of taking anything in the bay areas. It was always just that room off to the side. That way it wasn’t interfering with anything with the village. That was a misconception where people thought we wanted the garage.”

“Half the garage,” Bever interjected. 

“We never asked for that,” both Anderson and Clinton replied. 

The N-O-W School District will provide at no cost a small shed for additional storage. 

• “When issues arise over fencing or dugout issues, the school district and Wilton will work together to make the necessary repairs.” 

Anderson said, “The cool thing about the dugouts we have currently built — obviously Sam (Wildes) worked very hard to get the donations for all the materials, which will save you a ton of money. And our tech department has built all of the dugouts, and they will finish those. It’s two positive things. One, financially, you don’t have to pay for the materials, and two, it’s our own kids from our tech department having a little stake in the game. They can say, ‘I built those dugouts, and I’m proud of them.’”

Anderson added, “It’s not like we’re trying to throw everything on the village. We’re working on a partnership.”

• “Wilton will provide field lime for filling in holes on the softball and baseball diamond.”

• “N-O-W will provide a sound system for the softball field that can be used for any village event as well.” 

The sound system has a value of roughly $10,000, Anderson said. 

• “The school district will provide all concessions and remit 25 percent of profits to the village, which would allow the district to store concession supplies in the village stand.”

• The board talked about charging the summer rec program 25 percent as well as the Falcon Booster Club, but Clinton noted that summer rec tournaments usually generate very little concession revenue. A good day brings in about $100, he noted. 

The board further considered requesting a percentage of concessions from other groups. 

Bauman said, “It’s a beautiful setup now. Hopefully that thing is busy all the time. Everyone that drives by it says this is awesome. I’m from Ontario. Ontario would have loved to have this. We just lost seven businesses downtown; we have green space all over. Ontario would have loved to have had this opportunity. But the baseball field is already here (in Wilton). When the school was sending the buses out, they dropped the baseball here; they took the softball up to school. If one gets done early, they have to send the bus back to pick them up, or vice versa. In the spring, it’s cold, it’s raining. It might be snowing. So (now) they have both fields side by side. The (Scenic Bluffs Conference) loves it; the people love it. It’s a win-win. But hopefully that field is busy all the time. It’s not just the school’s field; it’s the village’s. This is a plus for the village. All of the villages around here would have loved to have this opportunity, and you got it …. People in the town, the businesses, love it. This brings people into your town. That’s what you want.”

He added, “I never really knew Sam (Wildes) before this project. That man needs a thank-you from everybody because he’s put a lot of time into this. What he’s done for this project this awesome.” 

• “Brookwood softball and baseball have first priority during the high school seasons, and N-O-W summer rec will have first priority during summer-rec season.”

• “Brookwood will transport aluminum bleacher seats to Wilton.”

The cost of the bleachers cost the district about $15,000, Anderson noted. 

• “Brookwood reserves the right to charge admissions for WIAA Regional and Sectional contests. Brookwood also can charge regular game admission if future conference rules require it.”

• “Wilton will ensure that restroom facilities are available for games and practices.”

• “A storage area for softball and baseball equipment will be provided.”

• “N-O-W will provide a softball storage shed that will be next to the third-base dugout.” 

• “Brookwood will arrange for a spring cleanup and preparation of the softball and baseball facilities.”

• “Both Brookwood and Wilton agree to open lines of communication. When there’s a problem or potential problem, both parties will meet to discuss it and work out a solution.”

• “Brookwood and Wilton will meet on an annual basis after the high school seasons are complete.”