by Andrew Garda

Building or rebuilding something on public or town land is without a doubt a long process. Ordinances, logistics, various board approvals — there’s a lengthy list of steps any project must go through, and even more so when it involves the school district. Fortunato Field is no exception.

So, it should come as no surprise that the field turf replacement at Fortunato continues to be pushed back.

That was one of the many topics covered at the Board of Education meeting Monday night at the George Inness Annex.

According to School Business Administrator and Board Secretary Emidio D’Andrea’s presentation, the three options currently on the table for beginning actual construction are late fall 2018, early spring 2019, or late spring after the spring sports season concludes. Even then, D’Andrea cautioned, weather and other issues can impact the speed with which the project can be executed.

D’Andrea’s report covered a lot of ground for the board, from listing the various infill surfaces which could be used, to what information is expected in the next proposal to whether grass should be considered for the field.

Athletic Director Patrick Scarpello did point out that while grass might be cheaper short term, the constant maintenance could add up and there would be times where that maintenance would make it impossible to use the field. Since MHS uses the fields almost year-round, and allows other organizations to use it as well, that would be an issue.

The grass also was brought up in terms of how it would compare to other surfaces in terms of causing concussions and BOE vice president Joe Kavesh in particular was concerned about making sure the rate of concussions for each potential surface and infill was carefully considered.

In terms of infill, D’Andrea listed six different types:

There is the standard SBR rubber infill, which is made up of ground up recycled tires and sand.

There is also what’s called a “Nike Grind,” which according to the Nike Grind website is made up of “surplus manufacturing materials and athletic footwear... [which] are separated and ground into a wide range of granules.”

EPDM is also an option. It stands for ethylene propylene diene monomer and is made up of post-­industrial recycled products.

Another option presented was TPE or thermoplastic elastomer, which comes in the form of small granules.

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The district is also considering a synthetic evaporative cooling system and an organic infill, which would be comprised of a mix of coconut peat and cork.

This last one might please the Environmental Commision, which at its June 13 meeting decided to support a more ecologically friendly infill and drafted a letter to the town and the BOE to that effect. While the environment is important to the group, the issue of the health of the athletes playing on the surface — and concerns over the toxicity of infill and the long term impact on students — was the impetus for the decision.

As of Monday’s BOE meeting, there was no indication that the letter had made its way to the board, and will likely not be discussed before the next meeting in July. Despite that, the topic of how the infill could impact health was also raised by board member Anne Mernin, who wanted the board to have the most accurate scientific and health information that is available.

D’Andrea’s recommendation at the BOE meeting was that the board put the bid specification together using SBR as the primary bid. Then, in the bid specifications the BOE can put “add or deduct alternates,” which allows the board to associate the eco-friendly component and a dollar component with each one of the various infills when the bids are turned in.

“So it’s no longer just that you know what it is,” D’Andrea said. “Now you have a cost associated with it.”

D’Andrea said that then, the bids can be presented to the board.

His recommendation for SBR was based solely on cost, because it is the most common infill used. Each of the other options could be a potential add-on of cost, he explained.

That could, however, change as time went on.

“By the time you go out to bid,” he said, “you may find that Nike Grind might be a deduct because that may be less expensive at the time.”

So D’Andrea’s suggestion of SBR as the primary bid is more of a suggestion to create a baseline price so the BOE have something to measure cost against.

“We have to take this very serious,” board member Eve Robinson said. “We’re going to put this down and it’s going to be there quite a while. We hope it’s going to stay. We’re hoping we can put something down that can be safe, but be cost effective and last. This is for the future.”