The Sparta Board of Education pushed a decision about the scope of a field improvement referendum question, and the potential date for that public vote, to its Oct. 29 meeting.
The board on Monday heard details of three options that accomplished the construction of a turf field with lights, a rubberized walking track, new bleachers and a concessions building at Sparta High School.
Following three and a half hours of facts and figures from the project’s architect, engineers and the board’s bond and legal consultants, comments from the public and board members, board president Keith Smith said he felt the options should be reviewed by the board’s construction committee before the full board again takes up the question.
The options presented Monday represented changes in a $4.5 million ballot question defeated in March by voters. The March referendum included a 8-lane rubberized high school track around the turf field, which has been dropped from the current options.
The issue, board members acknowledged, is complicated by the failed referendum, an entrenched opposition, and the perception that the board is not acting in the best interest of the public.
That point was raised by board member Frank Favichia, who, while he favored an early referendum date, said the board would have a better chance on getting the referendum approved by voters if it delayed the vote and worked on answering the concerns of the residents who opposed the project in March.
Board vice president Dorothy LaBeau, said that the project is about providing a safer facility for Sparta athletes. She said there is a YouTube video taken by a high school students that shows the muddy, poorly conditioned fields, and that a recent soccer game, parents of the visiting team questioned the field’s condition. She urged residents to visit the high school field themselves to view the conditions firsthand.
Board member Scott Turner said, “there is a need. The field was build in 1958 and there have been no changes.” He said the field would be used by high school athletes, and participants in township recreation programs.
Superintendent Dennis Tobin said the addition of lighting would allow games to be scheduled later into the evening, increasing the field’s use.
Turner said recently that a football player fell onto a rock that was buried in the football field and had to have stitches to close the wound.
“We’ve taken rebar out of the field,” he said.
Board member Maureen Myre said given the historically low interest rates, and the fact that the cost of the project would rise in the future, that the board should move forward because the costs to build the project were not going to drop.
The tax impact of the project is complicated by a 2006 referendum for high school construction that is nearly done. Once the project has been deemed complete by the state, the board plans to pay back $1.9 million in borrowed funds left over from the high school project.
Once that payback is made, the district’s debt service costs will drop, the board said, dampening the tax impact if the new referendum question is passed.
Paying off the previous loan would lower the tax impact of the debt by roughly $20 each year for a home value at the township average of $301,800.
The three options presented Monday, and their estimates costs are:
- Build a multi-sport turf field with lighting, a rubberized walking track around the field that would also act as a passageway to the bleachers, bleachers with 2,000 seats for the Sparta fans and 1,000 for visitors, and a concessions stand that would also act as a maintenance shed.
The bleacher seats are estimated to cost $165 to $175 each, and turf is estimated to cost $10 a square foot.
The estimated cost of this option, said engineer Douglas Dykstra, is $4.198 million, which includes construction and planning costs. He said the costs of turf and the bleacher seats is higher than they were for the March referendum.
This option would add $45 to the annual property tax bill of the owner of that average home, or $675 over the 15 years of the loan.
- The second option called for 750 fewer bleacher seats, and construction of the utility ground work for the concessions building, but not the building itself, which could be added later.
Dykstra said the cost of this option, including soft costs was, $3.534 million.
This option would add $38 per year to the tax bill for the owner of the township’s average home, or $570 over the life of the 15 year loan.
- The third option eliminated the concessions building, which brought the cost to $3.542 million. If approved, this option would add $36 to the average school tax bill, or $540 over the life of he loan.
Bond council Andrea Kahn said the board had four possible dates for the referendum: December, January, March or September.
The board decided that because there was more discussion to take place on the options, and there are timing issues related to the preparations of the ballot and the bond papers, that the December date would not work.
Dyktra estimated the construction schedule, once a referendum is passed, would be 14 to 15 months, with construction starting about six months after the passage.
Tobin said that means that for a January date, if passed, work could start in early summer and end in the spring of 2013; for a March date, the work could begin in September with an early summer 2013 completion date; but that a September vote could delay the completion of the project to 2014.