Mehlville board authorizes Northstar to move forward on synthetic turf projects

By MIKE ANTHONY

The Mehlville Board of Education voted unanimously last week to allocate roughly $32,000 that will allow the Northstar Management Co. to work with the Cooperating School Districts in obtaining bids for synthetic turf projects at the district’s two high schools.

The Board of Education voted unanimously in March to direct the administration to proceed with a proposal to engage Northstar to serve as owner/manager for the synthetic turf projects at the two high schools.

During a May 11 school board meeting, Ken Kadel of Northstar said the maximum cost to the district to obtain bids for the synthetic turf projects would be $43,890 — including $12,000 previously approved by the board for Northstar’s services.

Carl Arizpe, a member of the school district’s Long Range Planning Committee’s Facilities Action Team, had presented to the Board of Education in December the team’s recommendation to replace the grass athletic fields at the two high schools with synthetic turf, citing improved safety for students, reduced maintenance costs and better utilization of space, among other reasons.

At the Feb. 28 board meeting, Arizpe reiterated that the projects would be “revenue neutral” and announced the formation of the Oakville Mehlville Athletics & Activities Club, saying the organization would step up and solicit donations and advertising to cover any cash-flow shortfalls needed for the turf projects.

In a news release issued Friday, OMAAC announced it has accumulated more than $50,000 in pledges for the synthetic turf projects.

“This is great news for the community and demonstrates the great level of support from our local business leaders and community groups. We are hoping to reach our $100,000 level goal by the end of the year, but if we continue this trend we hope to reach this goal later this summer if the community continues to show their support,” the release stated.

The board’s action in March also called for a timeline for the projects to be established along with a funding level requirement for the OMAAC to provide financing for an incremental district lease cost for 10 years. In addition, a committee comprised of Arizpe, Kathy Crow, Northstar representatives Kadel and Tom Buelter, Mehlville administrators and board member Ken Leach was established. Leach was named board president after the April 4 election.

The panel since has met several times, and Kadel last week presented its recommendation to the board. A preliminary budget of $1,354,815 includes the $1,220,000 estimated cost of the synthetic turf and Northstar’s fee of $30,000.

“… We’ve gone through and looked at proposals for different ways to — the best way to buy this potential project on behalf of Mehlville, and we’ve also looked at — received bids for soil borings, surveys and proposals for some other design services. I think we’ve come to a unanimous conclusion, a consensus if you will, with a recommendation that we go forth and work with CSD. I’ve had several conversations with CSD, and they are willing to rebid their field turf contract, if you will, in order to meet the Missouri state statutes and specifically for Mehlville, but as well they would be able to take that forward and use that throughout the entire CSD district.”

CSD’s original bid was for equipment and not construction, according to a presentation made to the school board in March by Mehlville Chief Financial Officer Stephen Keyser. Mehlville’s legal counsel has determined that the synthetic turf projects would be considered construction projects, thereby requiring compliance with a state statute stipulating legal requirements for advertising for construction projects. Keyser’s presentation noted that CSD had acknowledged that its original bid did comply with that statute.

To move forward, Kadel noted that soil borings, surveys and other services would be required at a cost of roughly $31,890.

“… We’re prepared, I think literally tomorrow, if possible, to move forward. The first thing we need to do is get surveys of the existing fields, (and) get soil borings so that the prospective contractors can specifically understand the soil conditions on your two fields. There is a possibility — and I want to say possibility — that if you act tonight that there would be a possibility — I’ve said that three times — to get perhaps one field in by this fall and perhaps one field next year,” Kadel said. “At the same time, I be-lieve our entire committee understands that the financing and cash requirements that would be required would also have to be in place before you get in a position to go forward and then approve bids …”

Board member Cindy Christopher said she had several concerns.

“I’m just curious. I’ve got to tell you I’m a little skittish on trying to get a field in this summer. I’m concerned that we’ve got some issues,” she said. “First of all, No. 1, we’re doing one field. I think that’s going to be difficult as a district … I’m also concerned about saying by this fall. I’d be concerned about displacing parking spaces. We’re going to have torn-up fields halfway through the season. Our seniors aren’t going to get to play on their own field. I just have those kinds of concerns because I am anticipating what parents may say, not so much specifically about the field itself, but some of those other issues …”

Kadel replied, “… I think there’s a possibility of getting one field in. I think you are raising legitimate issues. We’ve talked about that in our group and certainly logistics would need to be considered and worked out before you would go forward. And I would hope that if you go forward with getting the bids, then some of that thinking could occur … I think the entire committee understands that that is an issue.”

The decision on which field to do first hasn’t been made, and Leach later said the concerns expressed by Christopher were valid. But he also noted, “… We might even decide not to do it at all this fall if it doesn’t work out right …”

Kadel said, “… If we can’t figure out how we’re going to do this logistically, I think it will be a factor in deciding whether you want to go forward or not …”

Another factor in proceeding now, Kadel noted, is a July 1 change in Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District regulations.

Asked by board member Rita Diekemper to elaborate on the change, Kadel said, “On July 1, my understanding is that MSD is tightening up their watershed requirements in reviewing projects, and these fields currently have drainage beneath them that tie into MSD … The new application will tie into that existing drainage system, but it’s going to be much more extensive …”

Furthermore, he said, the artificial surface is “a much more penetrable material than (grass) turf. So it conceivably could increase the watershed in MSD. So my understanding is that if we beat that July 1 deadline, it would fall under their previous guidelines.”