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Turf green-lighted at War Memorial
Has the Ephrata Mounts football squad played its last home game on natural grass?
The school board on Monday agreed to move forward on a preliminary plan that includes hiring an architect, starting surveying studies and beginning the permit process to install synthetic turf at War Memorial Field.
While there’s no commitment yet, the board offered support for the project, which could be officially approved in April and completed in time for the 2014 football season.
Board President Tim Stayer prefaced a discussion on the proposed artificial turf project Monday by urging the board to “seriously consider the great opportunity that has been presented.”
He referenced a $1 million anonymous pledge made last month.
Without the $1 million pledge we’re not having this discussion about artificial turf. ~ Ephrata School Board President Tim Stayer
“Without the $1 million pledge we’re not having this discussion about artificial turf,” Stayer said.
Officially, the board voted to move ahead in the “initial design phase with the consideration of other upgrades and the expenditures of contractual requirements.”
The vote to approve was a unanimous 7-0 , but Jennifer Miller and Tim Stauffer were not present.
Superintendent Dr. Brian Troop two weeks ago submitted a preliminary cost estimate of about $1.5 million for the project that does not include the $1 million donation.
Board member Glenn Miller asked how the $1 million would be received, specifically whether it would come through the Ephrata Area Education Foundation.
Troop said it was not clear yet how the anonymous donor would convey the money , but made clear that the project would not progress without it vetted and secured.
“I think one of the first steps before we spend taxpayer money will be to confirm those funds are available,” Troop said.
Troop proposed that any turf installation project should also include upgrades to the bathrooms and construction of locker rooms or a field house.
Miller also suggested the board could save money by allowing the War Memorial Association board to manage the process.
WMA is a private, non-profit organization, whose agreement with the district gives the organization responsibility for maintaining the playing field and property.
The law requires that a community’s “prevailing wage” be paid on public construction projects above $25,000.
“Is there an option where (WMA) can do this and save money by avoiding prevailing wage requirements?” Miller asked.
Susan Freidman, Ephrata solicitor, said the district would examine whether WMA could manage the project or parts of it.
The district currently pays an annual $40,000 stipend to WMA to maintain the natural turf at War Memorial Field.
Stayer said that maintenance fees could be cut significantly with the installation of synthetic turf.
The total cost to the district for the field alone would be $250,000 – when savings on maintenance is factored in for a 15-year warranty period on the synthetic turf, Stayer said.
“That $250,000 is available in the capital project fund and will not require added tax money,” he said.
The district has an unassigned fund balance of $4.58 million as of June 30, according to an audit report submitted to the board Dec. 2. That is up from $4.07 million a year ago.
Troop said he had a “successful meeting” with the WMA board earlier this month and expects to continue the relationship that goes back more than 50 years.
“We value the relationship with (WMA) and we will work with them through this process,” Troop said.