Divided board OKs bids for turf football field

Members support Port High work but differ on whether foundation should contribute to $800,000 project
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board last week approved bids totalling $806,791 for the installation of a synthetic turf football field, but not without first debating whether the district should pay for the entire project.

The board voted 5-2 to accept bids of $442,916 from H&H Civil Construction for earthwork and $363,875 from AstroTurf for the field that will replace the grass one at Port Washington High School in time for this year’s football season.

The board had previously committed $725,000 the district received from the sale of 54-acres on Port Washington’s west side last year to the project, but the question was whether it should chip in another $81,791 to cover the cost of the field.

The alternative was to put the onus for paying for the balance of the project on the  PWSSD Foundation Inc., a nonprofit organization that has committed to raising the lion’s share of the money for an $8 million overhaul of Port High’s outdoor athletic facilities, of which the football field is the first phase.

Despite the objection of some members, the board decided to tap the district’s fund balance and pay the full cost of the earth work and AstroTurf surface.

“I would really like (the foundation) to come up with something to help with the project and at least have a little skin in the game,” board member Doug Mueller, who voted against awarding the bids and tapping fund balance, said. 

Board member Aaron Paulin also voted against the measure. 

“I certainly support this project — it’s a must — but I don’t think it’s wise to pull money from fund balance,” he said. “I thought when we earmarked that money (the $725,000), the foundation was going to crank it up a notch.”

Board member Marchell Longstaff agreed, but voted in favor of the measure.

“I’m leery about using fund balance to pay for the balance of the project because that’s what the foundation is for,” she said.

But other officials said the district’s investment in an AstroTurf field that is to be completed by early August will demonstrate its commitment to the improvements and inspire donations to the foundation.

“I don’t want to delay the momentum the foundation is gaining,” School Board President Brenda Fritsch, who is also a member of the foundation, said. “I think this will help show (potential donors) that this isn’t just a dream.”

Supt. Michael Weber said in an interview this week that the foundation received an anonymous $50,000 donation shortly after the board’s vote and is expected to pay additional costs of installing the field. Those costs include $40,340 in contingency funds and a $64,543 design and engineering fee.

Following the recommendation of Point of Beginning, the Stevens Point landscape architecture firm hired to design the improvements, the board selected AstroTurf’s RootZone surface for the field. The surface has two lengths of synthetic grass, one of which is a shorter thatch designed to better hold the sand and rubber pellets that provide cushion, Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said. That, he added, will provide a safer surface and reduce maintenance.

The AstroTurf bid includes maintenance equipment and training, as well as two maintenance overhauls done by the company during the eight-year warranty period, Froemming said.

Paulin said he didn’t like the AstroTurf field and suggested the board delay the project long enough to allow the foundation to raise additional money for the more expensive Iron Turf product made by Greenfields.

“Maybe what we need is more time,” he said. “We have a great field now.”

Weber said, “It’s a great field until it rains.

“Our kids deserve this (synthetic turf field). Every time you get a heavy rain and you have a football game, it’s dangerous.

“Look all around us and you see school districts are putting in artificial turf for the safety of their kids.”

Synthetic turf would also allow the field, which is essentially reserved for football games to protect the grass, to be used for additional purposes that range from gym classes to community events throughout much of the year, Weber said. 

The new field will be lined for football but can be temporarily striped for soccer and lacrosse. Port High soccer teams play on the Jack and Shirli Flack Field at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, but at times when the grass field is too wet, games could be moved to the football field, administrators said.  

The football field will be smaller than a regulation soccer field but meet the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association minimum size requirement, Weber said.

Money for outdoor athletic facilities was not included in the $49.4 million referendum in 2015 in part because a survey of residents showed tepid support for the athletic field expenditures. But with the improvements still seen as needed, the district and PWSSD Foundation finalized plans last year for an $8 million overhaul of Port High’s outdoor facilities that in addition to a new football field include an eight-lane running track around it, new home bleachers and a press box, as well as artificial turf baseball fields and related improvements and a new concession stand and restrooms between the two fields, which would remain in essentially their present configuration west of the school.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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