Long Overdue

Friday, November 13, 2009

Long Overdue

The subject is the Westhampton Beach School District's primary athletic pitch, Carl A. Hansen Memorial Field, and whether the natural sur­face should be replaced with an artificial one.

But the "overdue" part isn't the installation of "Astroturf," but a frank discussion of the pros and cons, starting with the cost.

A Southampton Press West­ern Edition article this week focusing on the issue cites a figure in its lead, noting that the project...

"...was derailed last year due to its estimated $1 million price tag."

And that was last year, before everyone was aware of how badly the Nation's economy was!

(No mention is made of what a current cost might be, as none of the solicited estimates were provided.)

One of the proponents of the artificial surface quoted in the newspaper was Noel Laube, a Westhampton Beach mother of two sons play­ing Police Athletic League football which uses school facilities.

She wants the new surface installed because "We're losing youth athletes to other schools because we can't offer a home field."

(Perhaps it's just ol' misanthropic me, but while I acknowledge the value of inter­scholastic sports, some priorities seem misplaced.)

One of the School Board's more outspoken members favoring the move to a syn­thetic surface, Bryan Dean, the Board's "token jock," stated:

"We're exploring the possibility of replacing our existing sub-standard surface with a low-maintenance, state-of-the-art synthetic field, just as the school districts of East­port, Southampton and East Hampton have recently done."

And the figure cited in the newspaper, "11 games" played on the field a decade ago, "compared with 57 played there in 2008?"

"Ten years ago Hansen Field was mainly used for football. Today besides football, there's soccer, lacrosse and and various physical education department uses."

Fair enough... but let's get back to the cost.

Last time out it was "about $1 million." What's such a project going to cost now?

More critically, how is it to be funded?

Will it be placed into the School District's oper­ating budget as a capital expense... a rip-the-adhesive-bandage-off, get the hurtful part out of the way all at once approach?

Or will it be bonded over a period of time?

This, of course, would then require a District-wide referendum vote, and things have chang­ed considerably since those spendthrift days not so long ago when the Westhampton Free Library $7.8 million raze'n'rebuild project was approved, and district residents allowed the Board of Ed to re-purpose $800,000 of surplus tax dollars for construction which Superinten­dent Lynn Schwartz not only never requested, but said wasn't necessary.

(If the artificial turf is so important, that $800,000 would prove handy right about now, wouldn't it?)

There is apparently a third option open to the School Board, use of Employee Benefits Accru­ed Liability Reserve money, a legal "slush fund." It is unclear just how this would work.

The Board meets again this Monday.


1. Mrs Genetics said...

Seems that if the field is sub-standard, and it has to be replaced, then the decision should consider the delta between grass and turf. In either instance, the school should make sure they don't hire the same contractor (re)building the fields over on the old Hite property or the one that built/lined the BB court by the Junior High, where the out-of-bounds lines are well behind the baskets.

2. The Quiogue Kid said...

Having graduated from college in Sports Administration, a less-costly and much safer surface might be "PAT," Prescription Athletic Turf, and it is natural!

Great idea... hadn't heard of it 'til now.

3. Jeanne Speir said...

I have too much to say about this for a Comment! It should be a full-blown blog item!

Yes, dear.

Email address is not published
Remember Me

Write the characters in the image above