Oakville High’s newly finished turf football field. Photo by Jessica Belle Kramer.
By Emily Klein
The Mehlville Board of Education is urging administrators to look into the cost of installing turf on the district’s baseball fields, but the board hasn’t yet taken any action to start a plan.
Board President Samantha Stormer said at the June 14 board meeting that the Mehlville School District is one of the last districts in the county to not have turf fields.
“We’re always the last to get on the train, and I know it’s finances,” Stormer said.
Board members asked Superintendent Chris Gaines if he could research the cost of turf fields at Oakville and Mehlville high schools. Once the cost is calculated, Gaines said the proposal could possibly be placed on the five- or seven-year facilities plans. Board Secretary Kevin Schartner said that all they’re asking is for someone to look into the options and get back to the board.
The district is currently replacing the turf at Oakville High School’s football field after replacing Mehlville High’s turf last year at a combined cost of $1.05 million. The district maintains that the maintenance costs are comparable to mowing and other costs associated with maintaining grass fields and that players receive fewer injuries.
However, the current baseball fields are natural grass and are riddled with drainage problems. Stormer suggested that if there aren’t enough funds to install turf on the entire baseball fields, having turf in the infield is a viable option.
Visitors from other schools criticize the facilities when they see them, which Stormer said is embarrassing. Her son played on Oakville High School’s baseball team.
“Our fundamental problem is that since 2001, we are the only district in St. Louis County that hasn’t made a significant investment to our facilities,” Gaines said. “That’s the underlying piece.”
Some of the board agreed that the conditions of facilities are important along with education. Although cosmetic fixes are cheaper and fix the problem quickly, the board agreed that quick fixes are probably not the best decision and that long-term, it would be be better to invest in major improvements.
“Our first priority is to educate our students, so we all know that,” said board member Jean Pretto. “But at some point are we just going to let it decay into a place that’s unusable? If that’s the case, then let’s just do it now and be done with it. Don’t try to make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear and keep pouring money into it.”