Board supports artificial turf fundraising efforts

On February 16, the Milford BOE voted to “support the private fundraising efforts for artificial turf at the high school football field.”  This motion was made by Rob Hewlett and passed 4 to 1.  I was the dissenting vote.

While I would like to see our football field outfitted with turf and agree it would be beneficial for all who use the field, I voted against this motion because I do not feel due diligence has been completed on two fronts:  the financials, especially for future turf replacement; and the plan to manage the rental program that will be implemented once turf is in place.

The motion does not commit any monies to artificial turf, or even commit the board to approving turf if sufficient funds are raised.  However, I believe it sends the wrong message to support the project formally in any way until we have a solid plan.

Early in 2010, the Business Advisory Council (BAC) presented an overview of replacing the current grass football field with artificial turf.  The plan estimates the turf will cost $585,000 for initial installation, which will be raised 100% by the Athletic Boosters.  It will need to be replaced in appr. 12 years at an estimated cost of $400,000.  The district will rent out the field to other schools and community groups, generating income that will help offset replacement costs.  In addition, it’s estimated that maintenance costs will be reduced appr. $12,000/year net.

The plan presented makes a lot of assumptions and raises a lot of questions that have yet to be answered.  Many of these are financial, but there are also management concerns:  How will we manage a rental program?  Who will be responsible for the various aspects, from booking groups to collecting money to overseeing to cleaning the field/area once the groups are finished?  Some schools are very successful with their rental program and manage it well; others have ongoing problems.

Before we move forward in any way, I feel strongly we need to understand the financials completely and have a solid management plan in place.  My concern is not so much with raising the funds to install the turf – I have confidence the Boosters will be successful between private donations and grants.  However, if we do not have a good plan in place and rentals become a problem, what happens in 12 years, when the turf needs to be replaced?  This is my biggest worry.

While we of course cannot predict the future and it’s possible the tightest plan will fall short, we need to make our best effort at finding and filling the holes before we proceed.  If we go in knowing there are holes, we are asking for trouble.  That is what I am trying to avoid.

I have talked with Dave Meranda, President of the Athletic Boosters, and Mark Trout, the district’s Athletic Director.  They have both assured me the list of questions I have can – and will – be answered.  We will work together to make this plan as solid as possible.

Then – and only then – will I publicly announce my support for fundraising efforts for artificial turf for our football field.

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5 Responses to “Board supports artificial turf fundraising efforts”

  1. Hilda Lindner Knepp Says:

    Andrea:

    I heartily support your concerns. It would seem, before the Board signals “approval” of any such project (yes, I understand the Board is not committed to approve even if the money is raised), they would want to see the plan that addresses all the questions you’ve asked. As well, why do we want turf? It appears to decrease maintenance costs, yet it has to be replaced eventually, unlike grass. Does turf mean decreased injuries? Can we not rent out the field with grass, or is grass just too “old school”? You may have already discussed these things at the meeting but perhaps you could follow-up with another article on the pros and cons of turf. My last question concerns the previous projects the Athletic Boosters said they would pay for. Are those payments complete? I would hope the Board would not make/approve specific plans for turf installation before the other projects are completely paid for.

  2. andreabrady Says:

    I’ve gotten a lot of comments in various ways today about the artificial turf vote last night. Thank you all for your support of the position I took on this issue. Hilda, yes, I can post an article on the pros/cons of turf. I’ll work on that for next month’s newsletter.

    Re: the other Athletic Booster projects: they are ahead of schedule and have reported they are on track to pay back the money loaned to them on schedule. I agree, if there is any type of further commitment, I would want to know those original funds were paid back fully before we move forward with anything else. Especially in this economy, things are too uncertain to burden a non-profit community group with multiple large, outstanding financial commitments.

  3. Brett Bumgarner Says:

    Andrea…Though I do agree with the need to develop the details of the plan to sustain the new turf field going forward, I don’t agree that supporting the effort sends the wrong message, in any way. Last year, I presented a comprehensive plan that addressed all of the questions you posed above, and also provided answers to a list of questions presented by you & Gary Knepp. But for the convenient reference of you & others, here are my responses to the concerns you re-raise (none new) in this post:

    Lots of assumptions made – yes & no: Some costs, like installation & maintenance costs, were based on actual quotes & actual costs being incurred by other districts. While other financials, such as funding & rental revenues are based on informed assumptions. For example, rental revenues were based on actual discussions with potential candidates, so not just blind assumption. This is the nature of a preliminary business plan. We will not know actual figures until we do the work of raising funds, & in the case of rental revenues & others, we won’t know until we actually have the turf & are able to rent it out & experience things.

    Management of rental revenues & funds – the mechanics of the management process: School staff (Mark Trout, Jeff Johnson, etc) likely best to provide these details. However I will say that this certainly does not seem to me to be an area of great concern, or reason to block the efforts. I certainly think Mark & team have the experience & capability of managing this process/area, as just one of many they handle every day.

    Your statement that 100% of the funds come from the Boosters is inaccurate. Our plan calls for the Boosters to assist the fund-raising efforts, due to their experience & capability in this area, but direct Booster contributions to be less than 50%. And we have the Boosters contributions beginning several years down the road, which does allow the current commitments to be satisfied first. The plan presented clearly lays out the approach proposed to pay for installation, on-going maintenance, & eventual replacements. It’s all there, just review the plan!

    Essentially, we need to “put meat on the bones” of the plan. Mark & the team are in the process of doing just this.

    Additionally, if desired, I would be happy to provide the original list of questions presented by you & Gary after last year’s presentation, along with my answers to those questions. I would also be happy to discuss things further, or help in any way to help resolve any remaining open questions. Just let me know.

    Thanks for all you do on the BOE & for the community!
    Brett

  4. andreabrady Says:

    Hi Brett,
    Thanks for your comments, and for the work you did last year on the turf plan. I think the key word you use above is “preliminary.” The plan you presented was just that. You did a good job laying out the concepts, but as you say, we need the “meat” now.

    Mark Trout, who will likely be responsible for the rental program, is one who said they don’t quite know yet how they will manage the process; in fact, they are in the process now of figuring out how it will work for the baseball fields, and will apply that knowledge for the future. But right now, we cannot just assume it will be fine – especially as there are current issues with managing the field, just with our own teams. As Dr. Farrell has said, some districts do a great job managing their rental programs, while others are terrible. We need to figure out how to make our system “great,” and I need to be comfortable knowing we are there before I endorse the Boosters going out to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from local businesses.

    There are still holes in the financial aspects as well. I have the answers you provided, and they don’t fully answer all my concerns. Mark has verbally given me some answers to my remaining questions, but I have nothing in writing and none of the references he named. All that needs to be done as well.

    One clarification: I did not say the money will come from the Boosters; I said it would be raised by them. Unless something has changed, my understanding is the Boosters would be raising the funds and/or taking out a loan (questions about that, too) to fund the project. What I meant to stress in the above statement was, per the plan presented, the *district* will not be putting any money toward the turf.

    I’d be happy to sit down with you and anyone else to talk through the remaining issues I have. As I said at the meeting and in this post, I am not against the program – I just feel that, especially with such a huge, ongoing commitment, we need to have a solid plan before we endorse fundraising efforts. We don’t want board members to become complacent about the project – the taxpayers deserve more than that. What is wrong with dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s before we endorse publicly? I’ve been asking for answers regularly; I’ll be thrilled if someone would provide them.

  5. Brenda Ely Says:

    I agree with the position you are taking in insisting that all the details are worked out prior to supporting the turf project. I believe these things will be worked out, but it would be irresponsible to throw support behind an impartial picture right now.

    Additionally, I would ask that the board and the district consider the community when making plans for rental of our facilities. I say “our” because, in deed, the school facilities ultimately belong to us, the community. The board, as the representative of this community needs to remember that the community groups which might want to use school facilities (athletic fields, classroom space, auditoriums, gyms, etc.) are often small, non-profits with very shallow pockets and supported mainly by parents who are also members of this community.

    Encouraging community use of district facilities engages community members in the interests of the district and increases the likelihood of support from that same community when needed for levies, bonds and such.

    Andrea, I believe you feel the same way. Please relay this message to the others and
    discourage support for a rental plan that becomes a profit for the district at the expense of the “little guys” who help pay for these facilities every time they pay their tax bills.

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