'Ballpark figures' for new field

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BRATTLEBORO — After receiving rough estimates for options to resurface Natowich Field, the Windham Southeast School District Board of Directors will be holding a meeting with the public to weigh the pros and cons of using synthetic materials.

"I need to know more about this," said board member David Schoales. "It may have been a 10-year study but I'm being asked to make this decision."

Chris Sawyer, athletic director at Brattleboro Union High School, provided "ballpark figures" at Wednesday's board meeting: Crumb rubber infill with a sand mixture would cost between $934,000 and $1 million; crumb rubber with an acrylic coating would be an additional $140,000; and a combination of 90 percent coconut husk and 10 percent cork would run about $1.1 million. He said a shock pad could be installed underneath the synthetic field to help reduce the risk of concussions, for about $93,400, describing it as discretionary for the second option and a requirement for the last.

Sawyer estimated that reconstruction with natural grass would cost between $400,000 to $750,000. But he worried about how much work and money it would take to maintain it.

The project, Sawyer said, is intended to get more students using the field that is currently used only for football in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. But going to a synthetic surface remains controversial as residents continue writing op-eds and attending meetings to raise concerns about the price tag and potential environmental, health and safety issues.

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Principal Steve Perrin said he hopes to have the field installed by spring or fall 2020 at the latest. Since the project is anticipated to cost more than $500,000, Windham Southeast Supervisory Union Business Administrator Frank Rucker said the state requires the district to issue a request for qualifications, then the board will choose at least three vendors to submit proposals.

Board members plan to warn a meeting for the public to discuss the project. Board Chairwoman Kristina Naylor said she would schedule that by emailing school officials and board members.

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Several meeting attendees questioned the legality of what they see as not honoring the June 12 vote to resurface Natowich Field. Voters approved borrowing up to $750,000 for the project, which was included in a capital plan in the WSESD's voter-approved budget and had been presented to involve synthetic turf.

The high school district was absorbed by the WSESD in a merger in July with other districts in Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford and Putney. Those four communities also made up the voter checklist for the high school district.

On Wednesday, the board voted unanimously to look into long-term leasing or purchase options for Famolare Field, which is located near the school on Old Guilford Road and rented for middle school and sub-varsity sports on a limited basis. Naylor said she would make a call within 24 hours of the meeting.

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Perrin noted a lack of parking at the site, making it difficult for the athletic trainer to treat injuries there right away. High school administrators also have been vocal about their desire to keep sports programming on campus.

Kim Price of Brattleboro worried what it would cost to light the fields and install bathroom facilities.

"I think we need to find out if there is any possibility there and not just throw it out tonight," said Jody Normandeau of Dummerston.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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