Five years ago, in a deal that still leaves a bad taste in GM’s mouth, the city entered into an agreement with Maret School to renovate the Jelleff field. In exchange for Maret moving the pool and building an artificial turf field, the private school was granted a generous easement to give it exclusive use of the fields during prime hours. The easement was to last ten years, we’re halfway to its extinguishment.
Don’t get GM wrong, the fields are beautiful and the pool is great. When the property was owned by the Boys and Girls Club, the pool was not open to the general public (outside the club’s programs), and the fields were often in rough shape. In 2009, the city purchased the property from the Boys and Girls Club. At the time, the club was apparently in the midst of an RFA process to allow a private school to renovate the fields in exchange for certain use privileges.
When DC DPR took over the property, it did not re-bid the project. It merely accepted Maret’s bid. This was an abuse of the public trust. While Maret did produce wonderful facilities, it came at a cost. The private school gets exclusive use of the fields from 8 AM to 4 PM seven days a week for the last two weeks of August. Moreover, it gets the fields from 3:30 – 5:30 every school afternoon throughout the school year, (including and extra hour and half on all the Wednesdays). Finally, it gets the fields for five full Saturdays in the fall and in the spring. This exclusivity extends until 2020, so we are halfway to its conclusion.
That is if it is actually allowed to expire. GM has long suspected that the school, having grown dependent on the use of the fields, will find some way to extend the deal. The fact that turf fields generally have to be re-carpeted every ten years may give it an avenue.
Would another school have offered a better deal for the city? We’ll never know. The mayor at the time, Adrian Fenty, was obsessed with getting as much built as fast as possible. Delaying the process to do something as trifling and determining whether DC taxpayers were getting screwed was out of the question. We’re still paying for that hard-headedness.
Come 2020, pay attention! Like the original deal, these sort of things have a way of getting signed and sealed before it sees the light of day.