As fall practice opens, new turf field sits idleDistrict ‘hopeful’ squads will be on field next week
By: TODD RUTH & ANDY FASNACHT Review Staff, Staff Writer
Ongoing issues with inspections has led to a delay in the use of Ephrata’s new artificial turf Mountaineer Field.
Anxious Ephrata High School field hockey and soccer players gathered for the opening of practice Monday but were forced to find alternative sites as the district still has not received a stamp of approval from Ephrata Borough to use the field, which is located at the Ephrata Middle School complex off Academy Drive.
Stephanie Gingrich, director of community relations, said the delay has occurred because "the electrical contractor did not have inspections completed."
According to Gingrich, "all electrical and pole evaluations are now completed along with the scoreboard evaluation. The district administration is awaiting the official report on the evaluations from Ephrata Borough."
Superintendent Dr. Gerald Rosati said that process could take up to a week or more.
"As soon as we receive the certificate of occupancy from the borough then the teams can practice on the field," Rosati said. "The borough has been working closely with the district to expedite this process so the teams can use the fields as soon as possible. We hope to have the teams on the field next week."
Fall sports practices began Monday. The first events scheduled for the field are on Monday, Sept. 12 when the field hockey team hosts Solanco at 4:15 p.m., followed by a boys soccer match between Ephrata and McCaskey at 7:15 p.m.
Electrical issues aside, The Review obtained photos taken by a resident Tuesday that revealed other anomalies with the construction at the field. Several shots of the retaining wall showed mis-alignments, gaps, etc., while one photo showed an electrical box that was unlocked.
Rosati explained the district is aware of those issues as well and is taking steps to correct them.
"When the construction is completed, we put things on a punch list that need to be corrected," Rosati said. "There was discussion today about the wall, that the wall needs to be thoroughly checked. I talked with our project director, and we are going to take care of any issue with the wall or any issues that we feel aren’t done correctly. We are trying to make sure everything is done right."
"The wall went through the inspection and it did pass," he continued. "Now that doesn’t mean there are not parts of that area that we want corrected because of the quality of workmanship. But as far as part of the integrity, the wall was inspected."
Rosati added that despite the current problems, the new field is "an excellent facility," and one the teams will enjoy in the very near future.
"Things like this, you don’t want them to happen but I can tell you people are working very, very hard," he said. "We brought people in to make sure everything has been done so that the borough is satisfied, and that we are satisfied. There are still items that need to be corrected. There are punch list items that need to be cleaned up.
"We are doing everything that we can do to make sure this field is done very well and is safe for the kids. And it’s unfortunate that the contractor missed his inspection and we had to go backwards. But we are doing everything possible so we can satisfy all the requirements so we can get our occupancy. We are working hard on this, and we are going to do everything so these kids have a great facility."
In related news, there was a concern raised by residents that the school board may have conducted an illegal meeting Monday night in which the turf field was discussed.
Ephrata School Board President Tim Stayer explained they had a scheduled work session to continue discussions in their move toward a "policy governance" approach to how they conduct business as a board.
"There are models out there for non-profits to use," Stayer explained. He said they had been having meetings regularly to discuss this but with the summer break, had not had one recently.
At the beginning of the meeting, he said he did provide an update on the status of the new artificial turf field, that is currently unavailable for fall sports teams to use due to inspection issues. This was in response to previous questions raised by a board member.
"There was no action or deliberation," Stayer said, with regard to the topic of the field coming up at the meeting.
Then later a group of residents stopped in and asked if the meeting was advertised. They also asked some additional questions about the status of the field. The visitors eventually left at which time Stayer said they then decided to end the meeting.
"It was an oversight, we didn’t advertise it," he said Tuesday.
"We were not attempting to keep the public out of deliberations or action items," Stayer continued. "There was no ill intent."
Stayer said he plans to issue a statement regarding the meeting at next Monday’s regular board meeting, set for 7 p.m. in the high school board room. More TURF FIELD, page A16