South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Turf fields to come in $15,000 under budget

Mehlville school board discusses turf fields’ benefits

The final cost of the installation of synthetic-turf fields at the Mehlville School District’s two high schools is expected to be roughly $15,000 under budget, according to Deputy Superintendent Eric Knost.

Installation of synthetic turf to replace the grass athletic fields at Mehlville and Oakville senior high schools began in late May and was completed by early August. The Northstar Management Co. served as owner/manager for the synthetic-turf projects at the two high schools.

“… We are — really, I think I can safely say — we are done with the project financially and we’re just under $15,000 under budget,” Knost said at the Sept. 20 Board of Education meeting. “That includes contingency and everything, but I think you remember Ken Kadel (of Northstar) told you that he would spend contingency. That wasn’t there not to spend.

“That was just unnamed items and most importantly he was worried about what we ran into at Oakville and that was the concrete in the existing field.

“So when all’s said and done, it’s — right now, I think the figure is exactly — I won’t say exactly — $14,800 that we are under budget overall,” he continued.

The budget for the installation of the two turf fields is $1.555 million and includes a $1,411,379 contract with Sprinturf. Knost later said final numbers and a spreadsheet will be presented to the board at a later date, possibly in October.

Board Secretary Micheal Ocello said, “This isn’t necessarily financial, but I heard from one of the coaches that when Mehlville started, they said that the injuries in the preseason were next to nothing compared to injuries they’ve had in the past, and I was curious if that was a fact.”

Knost said, “Well, I just was going to say I hate to use words like accurate because I don’t think there’s anything scientific about — I don’t think anybody has really sat down and compared data, which we can do because we have trainers and they keep records. But yes, that has been stated by the coaches that injuries have not been an issue and it’s just one and the same with sports in our school district in the fall — we usually have, we’re plagued by injuries, and it has not been an issue.

“So I don’t want to say there hasn’t been injuries. I don’t want to say … precisely how accurate it is, but I think it has been — based upon what the coaches have noticed, a major improvement,” he added.

Ocello asked, “Can you talk just for a second about the utilization of the fields? Is it working out? …”

Knost replied, “It’s working out … I think there’s a desire and we’ve had some conversations with a few board members, there’s definitely a desire to be good neighbors and allow other folks to utilize the fields. We’re just — we want to do it right. We’re trying to catch our breath. I met with (Director of Support Services) Keith Henry and we sat down and brainstormed a process that maybe initially like let’s just say a neighboring school because of weather would want to come over and use our field.

“There’s just a few things that we need to make sure are in place, and what we’re going to do is we’re going to notify at least our neighbors ahead of time and try to let them get those things in place so if they are in need and provided one of our teams (isn’t) on one of our fields, then it won’t be an issue … We’re working through the process so we can do it right and I think we’re almost there, if not there.”

Board member Ken Leach remarked the new fields are being used by physical-education classes.

Knost said, “That’s a great point because I can confess as a former principal it was kind of embarrassing to — I was so into trying to save my field and making it OK for those Friday nights that I had to restrict so many folks from using it just so it could be available for those, you know, those varsity games. And it was kind of a sad thing when you have to send your PE classes out to the practice fields that weren’t so great, and now you go out to a stadium and … depending on what (schedule) block it is, you can see a band on the field, which isn’t normal.

“And any other block, it’s filled with PE classes, so it’s pretty neat to see that utilized,” he added.

Board President Tom Diehl said, “… The numbers I got (were) with the PE, practices, the band practice, we probably utilized the field as much in three weeks as we typically would in an entire school year, which I think right there shows the value of the (new fields).”

Carl Arizpe, a member of the school district’s Long Range Planning Committee’s Facilities Action Team, presented to the board in December 2005 the team’s recommendation to replace the grass athletic fields with synthetic turf, citing improved safety for students, reduced maintenance costs and better utilization of space, among other reasons.

But in February 2006, the Board of Education rejected a motion to issue a request for proposals to replace the grass athletic fields at the district’s two high schools with a synthetic surface.

Board members voted 4-2 during a Feb. 9, 2006, closed session to defeat the motion, which was made by Leach and seconded by Karl Frank Jr., according to information obtained from the district by the Call under the provisions of the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Law, also called the Sunshine Law.

“Mr. Leach made a motion, seconded by Mr. Frank, to put out a request for proposal for a $1.3 million lease over a 10-year period for the fields in order to pursue what the Long Range Planning Committee recommended,” the information provided to the Call stated.

While Leach and Frank voted in favor of the motion, then-President Rita Diekemper, then-Secretary Mike Heins, then-board member Tom Correnti and board member Cindy Christopher were opposed.

Then-Vice President Bill Schornheuser was absent.

However, Arizpe and other volunteers, including Brian Deters of the Oakville Mehlville Athletics & Activities Club, were undeterred, contending what the district was spending to maintain the grass fields would offset the cost of a 10-year lease for the synthetic turf.

The board voted 5-0 in July 2006 to ap-prove a $1,411,379 contract with Sprinturf to have synthetic turf installed at both high schools. Voting in favor of the contract were then-President Leach, Frank, Diehl, Ocello and then-board member Diekemper. Then-Secretary Correnti and Christopher were absent.

In August 2006, the board voted to adopt a resolution approving an agreement with the SunTrust Leasing Corp. to provide tax-exempt funding in the amount of $1.555 million for the purchase and installation of synthetic-turf fields at both high schools.

The agreement with SunTrust provides for a 10-year payment schedule at an interest rate of 4.24 percent. Interest is expected to total $379,694.30.

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