BROOKSVILLE — Ignoring the old adage, “Don't look a gift horse in the mouth,” Brooksville officials are considering replacing the baseball stadium at Tom Varn Park partly funded by donations.

As a professional contractor, Brooksville City Councilman David Bailey didn't mince words when assessing hazardous structural failures at the facility: “Some guys with some concrete slapped some stairs together. That doesn't sit well with me.”

“We want to make it totally safe for the public,” Mayor Pat Brayton said. “We could tear it down and start all over. ... I think the council wants this stadium.”

The city was forced to close the Tom Varn Stadium bleachers indefinitely June 30 after an engineering evaluation of the facility by DRMP Inc. and Infrastructure Consulting Engineering found they were “structurally unsound” with settling and cracking. The problems included a lack of steel reinforcement in one area, a wall that is tilted 3 inches out of alignment and soil being washed out from under a slab supporting part of the structure, according to DRMP engineers and geotechnical experts.

The study looked at all options from doing nothing to replacing the affected areas including deck repairs, accessibility for disabled people, and drainage concerns. DRMP's recommended alternative would cost $236,643, but Brayton said additional mandatory work like making it accessible to persons with disabilities and drainage improvements could push the cost as high as $350,000.

Officials noted some of the cost of the structure was donated by private individuals. Councilman Robert Battista said the stadium was a “community project” that even included funding from the Atlanta Braves, adding that “could be part of the issue” with problems at the facility.

Officials noted it was built sometime in the mid-1990s, but they could not locate standard paperwork on how it was built, maintenance records or proof it was permitted or inspected. Bailey said that, without proper records of such requirements, perhaps the entire facility should be demolished and rebuilt, not repaired.

Brayton was the only councilman on the board when the stadium was constructed. He later explained the project wasn't issued a permit because it was built by the city using the Public Works Department. But added he didn't know why maintenance records were hard to find. He said it included both public and private funding.

Council members voted July 12 to table action on the DRMP report after Parks and Recreation Director Angie Whisnant recommended further study of the options. She and DRMP engineers will look at all consulting options and return to the council in a few weeks with a suggested plan of action.

In other news

• The city of Brooksville launched two new ways for residents to engage in activities and receive public information, a Facebook page and a subscription to e-alerts on the municipal website. The Facebook page will provide information on local activities, events, city business, etc. at www.facebook.com/City-of-Brooksville-Florida-City-Hall-119463545573153. E-Alert is a subscription service of email notifications sent out on programs, boil-water notices, road closures, meeting agendas and minutes or job openings.

• The board reviewed plans for Operation Backpack, slated for 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Saturday, July 24, at the Brooksville Fire Department, 85 Veterans Ave. For years, the city has been supplying hundreds of backpacks to school children filled with school supplies for the coming year, and Sparky the fire station dog will be on hand. The program is funded by Friends of the Children; call 352-540-3830 or visit www.cityofbrooksville.us for details.

• Members approved hiring web designer Pedram Moghaddam to serve as the city's art gallery coordinator. Educated at the University of South Florida and Full Sail University, he will be responsible for all functions at the City Art Gallery by working with local artists on displays, exhibits, receptions and advertising gallery activities; the position receives $583.33 a month.