by Andrew Garda

Parts of the Montclair High School athletics facility could be in line for some face-lifts in the next few years, if the Board of School Estimate approved the preliminary budget which was in front of them on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

That’s the plan, at least, according to Emidio D’Andrea, the Montclair Public Schools business administrator. In a recent phone interview, D’Andrea — who joined the district in July 2017 — said approval by the Board of Estimate is just another in a long line of steps to get the project off the ground.

The Board of Education “approved it on January 10, to go to the Board of School Estimate for their approval,” D’Andrea said. “If it gets approved by the Board of School Estimate, it then gets forwarded to the municipal government for their approval.”

According to the agenda for the meeting, the projects were discussed and passed Wednesday night, after this paper’s publication.

“Once those approvals are in place, the specifics of everything will be laid out,” D’Andrea said. “Everything is in the preliminary phase, as cost estimates are put together based on the architect’s past experience of the work they’re doing.”

While there were multiple line items in an early budget for all capital works projects — including turf and bleacher work at Woodman and new turf at Watchung Field — they have been pared down to just two items.

As mentioned in the Board of Estimate meeting on Nov. 29, the initial list of projects across all school structures was meant as a living document, which would change as it went through various approval processes. According to a video of that meeting, Greg Somjen of the architectural firm Parette Somjen said the projects that would be getting initial attention were considered health, safety or welfare issues. While the very initial checklist had more than $60 million in potential projects, the list was trimmed to a list costing between $15 million and $20 million, which would be addressed over the next three to five years.

The turf at Fortunato was installed in 2005 at the same time Woodman Field was put in. This was approximately two years after the surface at Watchung Field was installed. All three surfaces are now 13 to 15 years old. While information on the installation of the track surface at Woodman was not available prior to the publication of this article, it isn’t outrageous to think it has been around for about the same amount of time.

But the turf at Fortunato Field and the track at Woodman are the only two athletics projects on the addendum right now.

For Fortunato, the entirety of the field — up to and including the softball area — will be getting new turf.

As for Woodman, the track will get much-needed work as there are certain points where the surface dips and cracks in it as well.

D’Andrea said he was hoping things would be moving forward significantly.

“So hopefully, by the end of February, this will be all on track to get this moving ahead,” he said. “Then we’ll have preliminary meetings with the architect to lay out the plans and come up with some timelines.”

Whether other athletic facilities around the district will get their own face-lift or not is unclear, but if it happens it will likely be after Fortunato and the track are finished.