MVLA moves toward stadium lights

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Town Crier File Photo
The debate over whether to install permanent stadium lights at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools has been running for years. At certain points, Mountain View has erected temporary lights, above.

The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees last week considered potential funding sources for installing stadium lights at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools.

Installing lights at both campuses is expected to cost approximately $1.6 million, according to Associate Superintendent Mike Mathiesen.

That figure doesn’t include adding new sound systems, which could top an additional $100,000 per campus, Mathiesen estimated.

The district plans to install new sound systems to better contain sound to the athletic fields and reduce the impact on neighbors.

“One of the community complaints has been not so much the lights, but the noise,” Mathiesen said.

The effort to erect stadium lights stems from campaigns in recent years by athletic boosters for permanent outdoor lighting at the high schools. However, neighbors have voiced noise, traffic, parking and other environmental concerns.

Last week, district trustees and school administrators met with neighbors to review a draft policy that would regulate the use of the lights and public address systems.

The policy, which the board hasn’t voted on yet, would limit the days, times and frequency that the new equipment could be used.

Finding funding

At last week’s board meeting, Mathiesen laid out five potential funding sources for the project, ranging from private fundraising to taking money out of the district’s reserves.

Mathiesen acknowledged that certain options, like using money from reserves, have substantial drawbacks, but he wanted to put all options on the table for the board to review.

One option is to conduct a community fundraising campaign to raise money for the lights.

The district also could use money from the building fund, which is set aside for facilities improvements.

The fund dates back to the sale of the old Mountain View High School campus in the 1980s, and over the years the district has replenished the fund with additional money.

Currently, there is approximately $3.5 million in the building fund.

The district’s reserves also could be tapped, but Mathiesen told the board he was reluctant to recommend that. In recent years, the board has been working to build up its reserves.

“There’s a very, very big reluctance to touch reserves because everybody’s fearful about what’s coming down the road in terms of a downturn,” said Phil Faillace, board president.

Another option is to take money from a fund that’s meant to cover benefits paid to employees in retirement, but Mathiesen said he was hesitant to support using that money.

He similarly said few would recommend tapping the district’s general fund, because it is a limited pot of money that is already budgeted for specific purposes.

Ultimately, Mathiesen and Faillace agreed that the most likely outcome is both to use money from the building fund and to do community fundraising.

Timeline for a decision

Before the district can embark on the environmental review process, the board must approve a policy describing how the system will be used, as well as a project plan, Faillace said.

“Those two things, if all goes well, should be ready at the end of the June (10) meeting,” he said.

The district will hire an outside firm to create a project plan. If the project plan is not ready by the June meeting, Faillace said the board will approve a request for proposals to have one created.

Once the project plan and use policy are in place, the district will undergo the environmental review process.

That will likely take anywhere from 20 to 40 weeks, depending on the kind of review conducted.

Even if the board moves rapidly, Mathiesen said it would be at least 18-24 months before the stadium lights are up and running.

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