By CHRIS EBERHART
The Eastchester school district’s project to replace the high school’s turf field will move on to phase two after a $1.9 million bond referendum vote passed 743 to 322 on Dec. 12.
Safety concerns about exposed seams and worn surfaces prompted the school district to close the field in October and set a Dec. 12 date to put the bond before a public referendum referendum shortly thereafter.
According to Mary Ellen Byrne, spokesperson for the Eastchester school district, now that the bond has been approved, the school district can develop the plans and file them with the state Education Department for approval. If the plan is approved, the project will go out to bid and be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.
Dr. Walter Moran, Eastchester school superintendent, said the timeline moving forward is contingent on the speed of the state Education Department’s review process, but he hopes to begin work in the spring.
“I am hopeful that approval comes quickly,” Moran said, “and work can begin in the spring with the majority of the construction and repairs taking place over the summer months. I will be very satisfied if the field can be ready for use during the fall of 2014.”
The bond, which will cost the taxpayers an extra $30 per year for 15 years, will cover the cost of installing a new synthetic turf field, re-pointing work in the middle and high schools, resurfacing the track, adding fencing around the field and installing security cameras.
According to the school district, the project had to be bonded because the school budget cannot absorb the entire cost of the work at once. Instead, it will be paid off over the next 15 years.
The current field, which was constructed in 2002, lived past its life expectancy and endured daily use by the middle and high school physical education classes, JV and varsity sports, in-town sports teams—such as the Blue Devils football and lacrosse teams—and Eastchester youth soccer as well as Eastchester summer camps and residents.
Robert Summer, president of the Eastchester Board of Education, said the board tried to make minor repairs over the past year to extend the life of the field while the board determined when and how to secure a replacement field, but, after a September football game, a referee said the seams posed a safety risk to the players.
Summer said he and school administrators walked the field and “determined that it could no longer be safely used, and it was immediately taken out of service.”
From that point on, the field juggle began.
Eastchester Town Supervisor Anthony Colavita, a Republican, told The Eastchester Review in a previous interview, “That one little pebble in the pond has humungous ramifications for the rest of the sports leagues that all need field space. We were told the high school soccer team has to play a night game at Haindl Field on Friday, which means Teen Scene [an organiation started by Colavita for local youths] has to get bounced, which means Blue Devils have to get bounced, which means soccer has to get bounced.”
Colavita said the Eastchester High School soccer team ultimately played on Tuckahoe High School’s field, the Tuckahoe football team played at Haindl Field at the intersection of Brunham Road and Rescigno Drive in Eastchester at night and the Eastchester High School football team played their game at Haindl Field during the day.
The big challenge, Colavita said, will come in the spring, when the fields are used the most between lacrosse, baseball, spring soccer and softball among other sports.