T.A. Loving Company has promised to fix a baseball field behind Grantham Middle School after a concerned community member found concrete, bricks and strips of rusted metal inches beneath its surface.
Jerry Bryan, a former landscaper and the father of a former Grantham Middle student, found the debris while tilling the ball field in late February, he said. Bryan was digging up the field because it was topped with clay that was far too hard to play on, he said.
"The thing about it is, they knew about it last year when the kids were having to pick up rocks," he said. "They had nothing to prepare the field with because the ground was so hard. That's the reason I came, because they could not level the field because of the clay they put in here, it's the wrong stuff. So I came out to try and mix the clay with sand to make it softer and easier to level, and that's when we found all of this crap."
That first year, students did not play on the field at the request of subcontractor Allen Grading Company, said Wayne County Public Schools assistant superintendent Dean Sauls.
"The first year they asked us not to play on the field to give it time to settle," Sauls said. "And then, the second year we were out there hand-raking the field to get rocks off the field so we could play on it."
After Bryan found the debris underneath the field, the school system forbade students from playing on it, he said. In the meantime, students are playing on the field at Grantham Elementary ---- a field which Bryan himself built in the 1970s.
Ken Gerrard, with T.A. Loving Company, said that there were several ways the debris could have ended up under the field, including being in the dirt used to construct it. Gerrard said that, after Wayne County Commissioner Joe Gurley notified T.A. Loving of the problem, the company sent a project manager to the site immediately. T.A. Loving has committed to fix the field, he said, though a timeline for the project was not available yet.
Gerrard said that the project will be done free of charge.
"I don't think anyone has discussed looking for payment," he said. "The real issue is just making sure it gets fixed."
Representatives from Allen Grading Company did not return repeated phone calls.
Bryan said he was happy with the response from commissioners Gurley and Joe Daughtery, as well as T.A. Loving Company, but he was disappointed with what he said was a lack of responsiveness from the school system.
"The problem with me is that they knew about this last year," he said, stooping to pick another small metal rod up off the ground. "I hate to be ugly about something, but they knew this. The men who put it in here knew this. Nobody looked after this, we had kids out here playing on this because nobody did their jobs. So somebody needs to start taking responsibility."