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Beaver River voters support project with turf option

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BEAVER FALLS — Beaver River Central School District voters on Thursday overwhelmingly supported an $11.25 million capital project that will include an optional artificial turf field.

“The thing that helped it the most was that the people in the district with kids turned out and voted,” said Gary R. Herzig, Board of Education president. “They voted for the future of their children.”

“I’m just thankful for our students,” district Superintendent Leueen Smithling said.

District residents voted 616-169 in support of a $10,523,185 project that will 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 voted 500-281 in favor of an artificial turf field over a grass field for an additional $726,000.

District officials said they were not certain how the turf proposition would fare, given some community members’ suggestion that it would be more of a luxury than a necessity.

However, Mrs. Smithling said, school board members worked very hard on project development and many parents and community members turned out for planning meetings at which a turf option was recommended.

“There were a lot of parents who went to bat for this,” she said.

The type of soil at the Artz Road campus is not conducive for growing grass, and a sod-based field could have been used only by varsity soccer and football teams for games, Mrs. Smithling said.

“This opportunity for turf is going to give every one of our teams a chance to play on this,” she said.

A sod-based field would have to sit idle through at least two growing seasons — fall 2014 and spring 2015 — and then be evaluated over the summer before it could possibly be used in fall 2015, while an artificial surface could be used immediately, project architects have said.

While baseball field upgrades were not technically included in the project, Mrs. Smithling said that landscape architect Cory Jenner from Appel Osborne, Syracuse, recently determined that drainage problems should be rectified within the scope of the work by removing the clay infield and replacing it with topsoil removed from the football field.

“It’s a relatively easy fix,” Mr. Herzig said.

The board president said he was pleased with the voter turnout. That was likely aided by holding the vote on the same evening as an end-of-year chorus concert for students in grades four to 12.

Assuming project approval from the state Education Department, district officials hope to begin construction by late June 2014 and finish by November 2015.

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

District officials anticipate the cost for the owner of a $100,000 home will be about $11 annually over a 15-year period.

The project is being designed jointly by Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown, and Appel Osborne.

Construction Associates, Phoenix, N.Y., is to manage construction.

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.

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