by Andrew Garda

The Montclair Town Council approved a bond measure during its March 20 meeting, which will raise money for several school capital improvements, including the turf at Fortunato Field and the track at Woodman.

The bond would total $3.4 million in funds which would be available for a period of 15 years.

The bulk of the monies would be earmarked for renovations at the two sports facilities with $1.5 million going towards replacing the turf at Fortunato Field, and $1.1 million for an upgrade and replacement of the track at Woodman.

The remaining $791,000 is to be used for a HVAC rehabilitation project at the Watchung Annex.

When reached for comment, School Business Administrator Emidio D’Andrea wrote in an email that architects are currently working on plans for the projects, but that no specific time lines have been established.

D’Andrea also wrote that the projects were being considered for approval to the state by the board on Wednesday, March 28, after press time.

When approval comes, it will be at the end of a long process, dating back to a Nov. 29 Board of Estimate meeting where the Fortunato turf and Woodman track projects were just one of several potential upgrades and repairs at Montclair High School Athletic facilities.

Other suggestions were replacing the turf at both Woodman and Watchung Fields and replacing the bleachers at Woodman.

The project list was pared down to just Fortunato and the track in the short term, with the official announcement coming in January. The BOE approved the initial budget on Jan. 10, with the Board of School Estimate following suit Jan. 30.

Fortunato is the field which needs the help most immediately, as it failed its GMax Test earlier this year. The test measures the shock-attenuation performances of various sports surfaces like field turf, and the field had to be shut down for a brief amount of time while short-term repairs were made.

The repairs will need to be repeated several times throughout the season, but allows the boys lacrosse and girls softball teams to play their home games on their home fields this spring.

Both Woodman and Watchung’s field surfaces passed their GMax tests.

Fortunato Field and Woodman’s turf were both installed in 2005 while Watchung Field is approximately two years older, putting all three surfaces between 10 to 15 years of age and well past their warranty and expiration date.

While the specifics have yet to be finalized, the expectation is that the new turf will cover both the lacrosse and softball field areas at Fortunato. Both Fortunato and the track are expected to be worked on concurrently, though whether accommodations will be made for sports that might require field time over the summer and camps is unknown.

Another bond was passed which will be allocating $440,000 towards parks improvements, which will include improvements to Mountainside baseball field.