Batavia High to get fake-turf field

Most funding will come from booster club while district pays for new track

The Batavia school board Tuesday put its faith in the Batavia Bulldogs Boosters club and will put an artificial-turf field in at Batavia High School this summer.

The booster club says it will donate $200,000 this June and $300,000 more over the next five years to help pay the bill.

That gave the board the confidence to approve the turf, as well as a replacement track.

"We are putting our jobs on the line if we enter into an agreement and you guys don't come through," board member Christopher Lowe told the booster leaders.

"In Batavia, we have relationships. You have proven your commitment to this district and to the students in this district for a very long time," board President Cathy Dremel said.

The contracts were approved 7-0. FieldTurf USA got the $451,818 contract to install the turf. Hoppy's Landscaping Inc. will be paid $967,441 to replace the track and its field-event areas, such as jump pits.

Sports coaches and a physical education teacher made a hard pitch Tuesday to get the artificial turf.

"This isn't some newfangled invention here," said Dennis Piron, the head football coach and track coach, after rattling off a list of several dozen neighboring schools that have artificial turf.

He was trying to counter worries raised by community members who have questioned the safety of such fields. People have raised concerns about increased injuries and exposure to possible carcinogens in the materials used for artificial turf fields.

The new field, from FieldTurf USA, will use an infill composed of rubber, sand and cork, instead of the more-controversial crumb-rubber field infills. It keeps the field cooler, which had been another concern.

The contracts for the track and the field totaled about $1.4 million. The track work was already budgeted. Besides the booster's pledged donations, the district will use money from inactive student activity accounts.

Anton Inglese, the district's chief financial officer, has estimated there may be about $200,000 that can come from there. The rest will come from loans out of the working-cash fund to the capital-projects fund.

One member of the public spoke against the proposal. Michelle Olache is one of the about 200 people who signed an online petition submitted to the district last week.

The petition called for an advisory referendum on whether to install artificial turf.

"Why not put the issue to rest and put this issue before the people?" Olache asked at the beginning of the meeting.

The district asked voters in 2014 about whether the district should borrow $15 million to do buildings-and-grounds projects at all schools. Projects included installing artificial turf at the high school. Residents voted no.

Two artificial turf fields were proposed in a $13 million plan in February 2013 to renovate Batavia High's athletic fields. One would be in Bulldog Stadium and the other to the southeast of the stadium.

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