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Beaver River floats $10.52m project with turf field option

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BEAVER FALLS — Beaver River Central School District taxpayers will be asked if they would like a side of artificial turf with a $10.52 million proposed capital project.

“We will find out if the community wants to consider turf,” Superintendent Leueen Smithling said.

Residents will vote on a $10,523,185 project that would include renovations to the kindergarten and first-grade wing, agricultural classroom and athletic fields and conversion of a steam heating system installed in 1959 to a more energy-efficient hot-water system expected to save about $100,000 per year.

Then, in a second proposition, they will be asked if they favor an artificial turf field over a grass field for an additional $726,000. The turf option will be contingent on passage of the initial capital project proposition.

The vote will take place from noon to 8 p.m. June 6 in the high school library.

An informational session on the proposals has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the auditorium.

District voters handily rejected a $12.5 million project in December 2008 that was to include a turf field.

Residents in May 2010 approved a scaled-back, $2 million project that included auditorium repairs and other upgrades. However, that didn’t address problems with the athletic complex, including those that have prevented the school from hosting a track meet for the better part of a decade.

Because of the 2008 vote, district officials “weren’t even going to consider turf” in the new plan, Mrs. Smithling said. However, at a series of planning meetings, parents and other attendees requested that a turf option be provided, she said.

Despite a higher initial cost, officials project that over the course of 15 years, the cost would be only slightly higher, with $748,500 for artificial turf and $692,000 for sod. The latter figure would include $9,000 for field rental and busing during the initial two growing seasons when the sod field could not be used and $402,500 for maintenance fees, including an additional laborer.

The turf field would cost only $22,500 for maintenance over the 15 years, officials project.

Mrs. Smithling said those estimates don’t include development of an additional practice field, which would be needed if a sod-based field is chosen.

Also, a grass field could handle only about 50 events per year, while an artificial turf field essentially would have unlimited use and could be used longer in the spring and fall, she said.

State building aid is expected to cover 82.1 percent of capital project costs, and district officials are proposing to cover part of the local share with $1.75 million from their unreserved fund balance.

A bump in state aid because of redesignation as a high-need district, ongoing belt-tightening measures and the pending payoff of debt from a past project should make that dip into reserves possible without imposing long-term fiscal harm, said Randolph M. Myers, business manager.

“That’s the number we felt was available,” he said.

That would leave an additional cost to district taxpayers of about $36,000 annually over a 15-year period, Mr. Myers said.

District officials anticipate the cost for the owner of a $100,000 home to be about $8 per year, while the turf option would bump that figure up to about $11 annually.

The project is being designed jointly by Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown, and Appel Osborne, Syracuse. Construction Associates, Phoenix, N.Y., would manage construction.

If voters approve the project, district officials hope to begin construction by late June 2014.

Addressing all deficiencies identified by a recent building condition survey and suggested program improvements would have cost $23 million, but district officials chose to handle only the most pressing problems with the project to keep the price tag down, Mrs. Smithling said.

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