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Divergent views expressed about Beaver River turf option

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BEAVER FALLS — Much of Tuesday night’s session on the Beaver River Central School District capital project focused on the artificial turf field option, with speakers coming down on both sides of the issue.

“I feel this turf is more of a luxury than it is a necessity,” Croghan resident and business owner Ronald Wolff said during the session, attended by about 50 residents.

Penny Everson, who served on the athletic fields planning committee, suggested that, given the poor state of the current field conditions, having a field that could withstand heavy use would be worth the added cost.

“It looks pretty bad out there,” she said. “I support the turf.”

Residents will vote from noon to 8 p.m. June 6 in the high school library on a $10,523,185 project that would include renovations to the kindergarten and first-grade wing, agricultural classroom and athletic fields and conversion of a steam heating system to a more energy-efficient hot-water system. Then, in a second proposition, they will be asked if they favor an artificial turf field over a grass field for an additional $726,000.

District officials anticipate the additional cost for the owner of a $100,000 home to be about $8 per year, while the turf option would bump that figure up to about $11 annually.

“I don’t think people are talking about the first proposition because we agree with it,” said district resident Wade E. Lyndaker while expressing doubts about the turf option.

District officials anticipate that, over the 15-year borrowing period for the project, the overall cost for artificial turf would not be significantly greater than grass, which would require much more maintenance.

However, the life expectancy of the artificial surface would be 10 to 12 years, at which point a $450,000 to $500,000 replacement project would need to be done, according to Peter Osborne, senior partner at Appel Osborne, Syracuse, which is designing the field portion of the project.

Surface replacement is typically done as a capital project so state building aid covers the majority of costs, and funds may be set aside or raised in the interim to cover any local share, he said.

While some speakers suggested it would be foolish to invest in a surface that would probably need to be redone before it was paid off, others noted that artificial turf would be much more durable than natural turf.

“You’re going to be able to put a lot more sports on the field,” Mr. Osborne said.

If voters approve the project, district officials hope to begin construction by late June 2014 and finish by November 2015.

A sod-based field would need to sit idle through at least two growing seasons — fall 2014 and spring 2015 — and then be evaluated over the summer before it could possibly be used in fall 2015, while an artificial surface could be used immediately. A turf field could also be used sooner in the spring and later in the fall and be used extensively for games, practices, gym classes and community events, while the sod field would effectively be limited to games, requiring some development of extra practice fields, district officials said.

John Hodkinson, who has long been involved in area youth baseball programs, suggested that drainage deficiencies on the baseball field should have also been addressed in the project. District officials said such work could possibly be done if other parts of the project come in under budget or as part of a future project.

Board of Education and Croghan Lions Club member Marian M. Opela reported that the Lions plan to soon begin a project in which old sneakers will be collected at the school. Through a program sponsored by sneaker company Nike, the club would be able to trade in piles of old footwear for money that could be used to surface a tennis court or even the track, potentially allowing the district to do more extensive work with this project, Mrs. Opela said.

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