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Whitefish Bay district officials consider contributing for artificial turf softball field

Maintenance costs would be reduced

March 7, 2014

Whitefish Bay — The Whitefish Bay School Board is prepared to consider financially contributing to the Bay Baseball Steering Committee's approximately $450,000 proposal to replace the existing high school girls' softball field with artificial turf.

In a recent discussion of the Buildings and Grounds Committee of the School Board, members viewed the request as an opportunity that would be difficult to pass up, despite the fact that the project is not identified as a priority in the district's long-range facilities maintenance plan.

"It is really opportune to leverage the private piece of that to create something that's more usable for the whole community," Board President Pamela Woodard said.

Business Services Director Shawn Yde said the project would result in a more multipurpose field for routine use by not only the softball program, but football and soccer team practices and physical education classes as well, for example. The project also would improve site drainage, Superintendent Laura Myrah added, which could allow groups to use the space earlier in the year.

In light of the project's merits, "It's sort of hard to say no, but the piece for me is how much can we contribute towards that goal?" Woodard added.

Reserves to be used

Bay Baseball is requesting that the board commit $100,000 toward the project, for which the group has already secured significant contributions. From district administration's perspective, however, a contribution of $60,000 to $70,000 would be more practical. The contribution would come from the district's fund balance, Yde said, which would maintain it at a level above 23 percent, within the district's recommended range of 18 to 25 percent of its budget. Alternately, contributing $100,000 would require the district to dig a bit deeper into fund balance, Yde said.

Despite the initial upfront cost involved, the district anticipates a savings of about $17,000 annually on supplies and manpower that would not be needed for an artificial FieldTurf and could be reallocated toward other buildings and grounds expenditures, according to a memo from Yde and Myrah. In general, artificial FieldTurf has a life of about 15 to 20 years, with the cost of replacement typically around 20 to 30 percent of the initial installment cost of the project, Yde said.

In response to concerns from board member Kristin Yunker about how the district plans to cover expenses for other upcoming FieldTurf replacements that will be needed, Yde explained that the rental fees generated through community use of the facilities are set aside to be used toward replacement, along with budgeting for those projects in the district's long-range plan. Yde noted that the district would expect much more community use of the field, generating additional user fees, but would also need to balance that with the concerns of the surrounding neighborhood.

More upgrades could be OK'd

The total project estimate for the girls' softball field is based on a quote obtained by Bay Baseball from FieldTurf for a softball outfield of about 59,300 square feet. If the board chooses to commit to the project and the necessary funds are secured, Yde said the district would bid the site work for it, with the hope that cost estimates might come in lower. The district likely would put out bids for the field alone, as well as an option that would include other upgrades, such as fencing and dugouts, Yde added.

Although no action was taken, board consensus favored committing $70,000 to the project. Members agreed that should Bay Baseball be unable to raise the remaining $30,000 needed for the project to proceed, they may be willing to consider an additional contribution at that time. The request will come to the board for action at its March business meeting.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: School Board business meeting

WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 12

WHERE: Whitefish Bay High School, 1200 E. Fairmount Ave., Room 47

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