In the end, it all came down to money.
The Woodstock School District 200 Board of Education unanimously voted Wednesday night to reject five bids relating to the proposed installation of an artificial turf surface at Woodstock High School’s Larry Dale Field.
“The difference in cost was $350,000 over what was raised,” District 200 Superintendent Mike Moan said. “We appreciate the work of the Renaissance Committee, but that gamble was just too large.”
The bids, opened Monday, July 6, and reviewed by staff to assure they met the project’s specifications, pertained to the first stage of project, which included preparing the subgrade, installing sewer pipes and an under drain system, installing a concrete curb and sidewalk, and landscape restoration.
The lowest bid, offered by Gavers Asphalt Paving and Excavating of Woodstock, was $574,995. The highest bid was more than $793,000. The additional cost of the synthetic surface and its installation was estimated at about $309,000, and other fees, such as construction oversight costs, would bump expenses even higher, Moan said.
The Renaissance Committee collected $805,925 in donations to date, according to its website, and projected the new field would cost $955,170.
Prior to voting, the board allowed for public comments, and 17 people spoke against the measure, most citing health and financial concerns. No one spoke in favor of the plans.
“I live down the street from the football field, and I am against the turf as the project stands now,” said Mary Alice Howe, whose son is a soccer player. “…None of us want our kids exposed to chemicals that are going to cause cancer. I have concerns about the groundwater and the air surrounding Larry Dale Field. Is this really a good idea? Maybe we can work together on both sides of the fence to find (another) way to improve the field.”
Board member L. William Nattress explained to the approximately 50 people in attendance that District 200 has an established policy for accepting monetary gifts from the public. While the board encourages unrestricted gifts, it also considers donations earmarked for specific projects, such as the artificial turf surface.
“A project was presented to the board as a gift,” Nattress said. “There is another side to this as I know we will have a football field that will need repair someday. I, as a taxpayer, hate to see the money go away. Let’s find a way to use this correctly in the community. Don’t let this disappear.”
Nattress and board president Camille Goodwin encouraged the attendees and members of the Renaissance Committee – a subgroup of volunteers working to find ways to improve Woodstock High School – to work together.
Proponents of the multiuse field said the artificial surface would allow more Blue Streak physical education classes and additional athletic teams, such as soccer, use the home field for games and practices. The field is primarily used for football games. Most opponents expressed concerns for using crumb rubber, made from recycled car tires, as a playing surface. They feared the material could be a health risk in the long term, and increase player injuries.