Wednesday, September 16, 2009

School system to remove light poles at North Point

Four light poles on the North Point High School football field will be removed, and the stadium is shut down until the school system is assured it is safe to allow students back on the athletic fields.

Last week, after Superintendent James E. Richmond received notice that a number of light towers manufactured by a Fort Worth, Texas company had fallen, it was determined that the poles at North Point were designed by the same company. School system staff found visible cracks in two of the poles, leading to the relocation of the Friday night North Point/Henry E. Lackey High School football game.

On Monday, the school system hired a structural engineering firm to examine four outdoor steel light poles at North Point. The investigation showed there were cracks in two of the poles and evidence of the same distress starting in the two other poles. North Point is the only school with this brand of light pole. Richmond ordered all four poles to be removed from the field. "With the information we have now, we are not taking any chances. The result of not removing the poles could be devastating," Richmond said.

Weather permitting, pole removal will begin Thursday, Sept. 17 and is expected to take two days. Athletic events scheduled for this week have been relocated with cooperation from the other county high schools and the county Community Services department. North Point has also moved physical education classes and JROTC activities to other locations until the poles are removed. North Point Principal Kim Hill said, "The stadium will remain shut down until we know it is safe to reopen."

All night games scheduled at North Point for the remainder of the fall season will be rescheduled as daytime events or relocated. Athletic events impacted include football, girls' and boys' soccer, and field hockey. Parents and fans can find schedule changes by visiting the North Point Web site, www2.ccboe.com/northpoint, clicking on athletics and viewing the schedules on the North Point Athletics link.

The school system intends to replace all four poles with new poles and reuse the existing light fixtures. There is no time estimate for when the poles will be replaced. Richmond has also ordered inspection of all school system stadium metal light poles.

Concern over the poles, which were manufactured by Whitco Co. LP of Fort Worth, began late this summer when the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an alert about the possible risk of the poles. The school system was alerted last week when a notice was sent to Richmond. Nationwide, nine poles have fallen since 2000 and nearly 50 other Whitco poles have been found to have cracks. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued statements that engineers are looking for the cause of the failure in the poles.

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