The subject of an artificial turf field in Homer was on the minds of the members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education during Monday evening’s meeting.
The board discussed a capital improvement project bond proposition for $22,987,000, which included nine school roof replacements, and an artificial turf field upgrade for Homer High School, with a cost of $1.9 million included in the bond.
Board vice president, Liz Downing voiced her support of the Homer turf being included in the bond proposal.
“It makes senses financially. Other than the 70 percent that the borough will not be paying for because it is under the capital 70 percent match,” she said. “There is also the required maintenance we have with that field right now.”
Downing said her son and a number of students who had played on the field had sustained injuries and were on crutches recently.
“Safety is certainly one of the issues,” she said.
The majority of the bond proposal deals with phase two of the roof replacements.
In a June memorandum from Craig Chapman, the borough’s Director of Finance, and Kevin Lyon, Capital Projects Director, they referred to a 2010 report from Klauder Company Architects, which wrote, “a number of school roofs were noted as being near the end of their useful lives and in need of replacement.”
Roof replacements were scheduled for completion in two phases, and after receiving voter approval in the 2010 borough election, phase one of the project, in the amount of $16,865,000, began on ten schools and the district-wide warehouse.
Roof replacements funded as part of phase two would include Tustumena Elementary School, Skyview High School, Soldotna Middle School, Homer Junior High School, Paul Banks Elementary School, Kenai Central High School, Soldotna High School, Kenai Middle School and Kenai Alternative School.
The board was in agreement of the need for roof improvements; it was the issue of the included turf upgrade for Homer High that sparked debate.
Downing is also a Homer resident with personal knowledge of the issue.
“The turf field and the track were items that in the Homer community, had been from the perspective that I heard from teachers, athletic directors and administrators over the years, felt that their request for that may not have reached the board level for a long, long time. Finally a few years ago, it did reach the board level and were put on the capital priorities list, obviously spread out over the years, as priorities were listed,” she said.
She said the board, administration and legislature all embraced the projects two years ago and funding was achieved for the track, yet the funding for the turf was still needed.
Downing said the Homer community is concerned about the new track with the lack of artificial turf.
“The concern was that the track was not going to last as long as it should, because the soil conditions underneath the track are so poor,” she said.
“The soil just needs remediation so that there is decent drainage so that it does not deteriorate any further,”
She said the field itself was not approved, and the hope was funding for the project would come from the last legislative session. The Homer artificial turf funding request was not approved during the 2011-2012 Alaska State Legislative session, Downing said, but the Soldotna High School track and field bond was approved.
“Then there was the hope that, yes, there will be a bond issue in the fall,” Downing said. “And the bond issue is now in front of us. If it is not approved, as is, this will be the third time that folks will feel that this opportunity was yanked away from them.”
Penny Vadla, board clerk, did not agree that the artificial turf needed to be included in the roof bond.
“I have no desire for Homer High School, or any other high school, not to have a quality track, and or quality facility whether it be a school, a roof or a playground or a track or turf field. What does not settle with me is the fact that this is the second phase of roofing care, and to me roofing care is the most important in this particular issue and I think putting the two together might put a message out there to people that we are tying two things together that really aren’t connected as far as in the bond issue,” she said.
“I would be in favor of this if it were two bond issues,” she said. “And I would vote yes for both of them because I think they are worth while.”
“I really want to be, in my mind, transparent, and finish the job that we started earlier and I realize that this might be a set back if it were separated out, but I also realize that there might be people out there who might not vote for this bond issue if it moves together,” she said.
Ultimately, the board voted five to three to approve the capital improvement project bond. The bond has been forwarded to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.
In his superintendent’s report, Steve Atwater announced that Joann Riener has filled the Human Resources Director position. She will move to the peninsula from Pennsylvania and start work on July 22.
He also reported that due to the good weather in June roofing and other outdoor projects were progressing well.
No public comment or presentations were heard at Monday’s meeting. The board will meet again the first Monday in August.
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.