Blue Mountain school board approves artificial turf
Dec 21—ORWIGSBURG — The Blue Mountain school board cleared the way Tuesday night for installation of artificial turf on two district athletic fields.
The board voted 6-2 during its meeting in favor of a resolution to convert the fields from natural grass to artificial turf.
School directors David W. Lafko and Rosanne Zelusky dissented. dr Timothy G. Grube, vice president, was absent.
The two fields are the football/soccer field and the baseball field, both at the high school.
Much of the lengthy discussion of the issue centered on cost.
Board member Roy A. Heim indicated that the cost would be about $3 million, about 45% of which can be raised from private donors.
District residents, he said, have indicated they would donate $750,000 toward the cost of artificial turn on the football/soccer field and $700,000 for the baseball field.
Becky Hoover, a parent of a Blue Mountain student, told the board she had contacted eight people, who will donate a total of $750,000.
“I know there’s more money out there,” she told the board. “I need you to back me. I can make this project fly.”
Hoover believes there are plenty of donors who would contribute from $20 to $1,000 toward the project.
Even with private donations, Zelinsky questioned the advisability of spending funds on artificial turf.
“Where is the balance going to come from,” she asked, referring to the district’s approximately $1.6 million share. “I don’t feel the district can support that much money.”
Heim estimated that installing artificial turf would cut maintenance costs by about $100,000 a year. Over 12 years, the estimated life of artificial turf, the district would save $1.2 million, he said.
Lafko, who chairs the facilities committee, was skeptical about the estimated savings and raised questions about the replacement cost when the turf’s lifespan expires.
“I don’t want to burden taxpayers with future debt that we might not be able to afford,” he said.
While approving the installation of turf, the board did not award a contract for the work.
Douglas Morgan, athletic director, said the district has received three bids for the project. There was no indication when the board would act on the bids.
In a presentation to the board, Morgan said the natural grass turf on the football/soccer field is deteriorating.
After rain, it often turns to mud, and the field’s condition restricts its use to only three or four events a week, he said.
“On eight occasions last year, athletic officials raised concerns about the safety of the field,” he said. “Frankly, it was quite embarrassing.”
Tom Gallagner, head football coach, said this past season an opponent’s coach raised concerns about sprinkler heads protruding from the field.
“There was a brief discussion about canceling the game,” he said.
Gallagher and other coaches argued that playing on artificial turf is safer for athletes.
His research indicated there are 44% fewer concussions, 25% fewer long-term injuries and 16% fewer short-term injuries on artificial turf.
Board member Anne Usuka insisted on having peer-reviewed studies that show there are fewer injuries on artificial turf. Cursory research on the internet, she said, indicated concern about injuries on artificial turf.
Morgan pointed out that, particularly in the morning, the dew-covered field is too moist to accommodate physical education classes. The classes are held on a macadam lot, Morgan said.
The condition of the football/soccer field is such, he said, that only three or four events a week can be scheduled there. With artificial turf, he said, there would be no limit to the number of events.
Heim, who was initially opposed to artificial turf, said installing it would allow Blue Mountain to host district playoffs and state athletic events.
Coaches noted that District 11 requires all playoffs to be played on artificial turf.
One of the advantages Heim liked most is that artificial turf would enable the fields to be used by youth athletic teams on Sundays.
“We’ve put a lot of thought into it,” Heim said, “and I’m looking at it as a return on investment.”
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