Friday, October 15, 2010

Just Say No to "Syn"

or Synthetic Turf

In a previous post about the Sept 16 School Building Committee meeting I reported that there was a discussion to include the installation of a new synthetic turf practice field as part of the bid package for the new HS project. Currently, the new HS project includes renovation/ repair of the natural grass practice field since it will likely be damaged during the building construction. At the Sept 16 SBC meeting it was pointed out by co-chair Barkett that the best approach would be to include the synthetic turf field as an “add alternate” to the full project bid package.

Note: “Add alternates” are more expensive project alternatives that can be interchanged if there are project monies available to do so.

At this week’s (10/11/10) Longmeadow School Committee meeting there was an agenda item to discuss support of the installation of a synthetic turf practice field as part of the new LHS building project. Prior to this discussion there were visitor comments by Mary Vogel- past chairperson of the SC who voiced her strong opposition to this proposal. Below is a video with her remarks…

Chairman Armand Wray initiated a discussion about SC support for installation of this synthetic turf if the SBC decides to move forward with this project scope modification and include it with the project bid package. It was clear from Mr. Wray’s remarks that the SBC was looking for a clear commitment by the SC (including a future “rubberstamp” approval) to fully support this proposal.

During the discussion it was pointed out that once the new HS building project is completed, safety, maintenance and operation of a new synthetic turf field will become the full responsibility of the SC. Ms. Jester- a newly elected member of the SC and a member of the SBC stated that she could not support the idea since not enough information had been presented. Ms. Bruns and Ms. DeMarco made similar comments. A motion was made and seconded but it was defeated (3-3) with Wray- Brunette-Weigand in support and Bruns- DeMarco- Jester opposed.

Some additional background info...

A synthetic multi-purpose HS practice field was originally proposed for consideration of CPA funds in 2007 by the Longmeadow Youth Sports Council. A considerable amount of effort was spent preparing this proposal but it was ultimately rejected- mostly on the grounds that it did not meet some of the CPA guidelines. The cost for this project at that time was estimated at $825,000. Here is a link to the full CPA project documentation that was submitted.
CPA Project 2007-2

This latest discussion about installation of a synthetic turf practice field has surfaced because it appears that the our new HS project will cost considerably less than the originally estimated $78 million.- possibly as low as $60 million based upon the recent Wilbraham-Hampden Regional HS project bid.

I expect that our SBC committee and its co-chairs to view any project savings as opportunities for our town to resolve some of our other major infrastructure issues- not as a “pot of gold” that could be spent for new HS options that were not part of the original project scope. I’m sure that we will start hearing the SBC “spin” where $825,000 is only 1% of the total project cost and therefore not a large financial impact or burden on taxpayers.

It will be interesting to see what other “add alternates” will be included with new HS bid package and how many of them are actually implemented.

If we try prioritizing the synthetic turf practice field with our other infrastructure needs (e.g., DPW facility, the two middle schools, roads, water/sewer, etc.) I doubt that it would even show up in a top 10 list.

The SBC has a “fidiciary” responsibility to town residents to build the new high school as originally approved by town voters at the lowest possible cost.

If the bid for our new HS with the original scope and materials selection ends up substantially lower than the originally estimated $78 million, the project spending limit should be reduced appropriately.

Given that the SBC has indicated that the town will receive bids in Spring 2011 timeframe, consideration should be given to formally reduce the allowable project expenditures at the Annual Town Meeting in May.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am new to Longmeadow but I spent four years on the Enfield BOE. Please beware synthetic fields. I can list countless problems but here are just a few. 1.) Remediation, it is a favorite government trick to come back and say that the soil is contaiminated and needs to be remediated, they have done that in multiple locations all over the country. Fields are limited to athletic use only- Enfield had to buy a very expensive cover if they wanted to use it to put folding chairs on. There is an ongoing controversy about the sanitation of synthetic fields and illeged danger from them. It is all a scam- Just plant grass and save yourselves money and headaches.