Northwestern Press

Monday, July 23, 2018

To turf or not to turf

Thursday, April 5, 2018 by Elsa Kerschner ekerschner@tnonline.com in Local News

Northwestern Lehigh School Board President Bill Dellicker opened a discussion during the recent school board meeting about an agenda item of placing turf on the athletic fields.

The turf would be in the stadium, on a six-lane track and be used by boys and girls soccer, football, boys and girls lacrosse, field hockey, cross-country, track and field and marching band.

Dellicker said the issue should be tabled as there had not been enough time to study the proposal.

Operations Director Arthur Oakes asked if waiting would damage the entire project.

Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Holman said the design phase would be through March and April, go to the township for permitting and construction would begin in August 2019.

Oakes said Department of Environmental Protect and the Lehigh County Conservation District would need to provide authorization and it is difficult to set a time for them to review the plans, which have to be 40 percent complete before they can be turned in.

Todd Leiser asked how much the design would cost. Oakes said $100,000 is pretty standard.

Dellicker said he would like to hear a discussion and understand the issue better.

Superintendent Mary Anne Wright said Activities Director Jason Zimmerman could give a presentation about health issues.

Zimmerman, who was attending the meeting via telephone, said, in 1998, health issues had been studied, especially cancer. Penn State has details of the study including sports injuries.

Board member James Warfel said studies are ongoing and no analysis has been readied.

Dellicker, who is concerned with the health issue, and said he does not know about injuries, added that he lived through the asbestos scare in the 1970s but now we know about it causing cancer, and the same with Agent Orange. Twenty to 30 years later people are getting sick, he said.

These little crumbs of ground up tires work their way up and are called “turf turds” by students, Dellicker said.

Zimmerman asked where Dellicker got his information. He replied it was from a band member.

“I’m reluctant to expose our kids to something we don’t know much about,” Dellicker said.

Todd Hernandez, vice president, mentioned the possibility of agriculture chemicals being in the material, and member Alan Rex asked about latex. John Casiano asked if alternative sources were checked.

Zimmerman said ground tires are used on playgrounds.

Zimmerman said 100-150 kids participating in track will damage grass.

Hernandez said financing is a nonissue but they have no correlation with health issues.

Member Joe Fatzinger asked if a comparison of costs to maintain turf vs. grass had been done.

It costs $5,000 to paint and fertilize the football fields plus the time it take.

Zimmerman said advertising and sponsorships will help pay the costs for turf.

Fatzinger said he played on good turf fields.

Dellicker said he could be dead and gone before health problems develop in the future.

Oakes said they should vote on it to start right away as the drainage has to be different for turf and grass.

Warfel wanted to articulate the benefits and not the possible problems.

Zimmerman said it would allow practice in bad weather and that they will be getting two more sports.

He said if they don’t get the turf, games will go on as scheduled but they can’t use the sixth lane on the track and the fence is tight against the inside.

Oakes said the grass is good in the stadium but worsens moving further out.

“If you value our athletes this is the way to go,” he said.

Fatzinger said Field Turf, the company being considered, is under a legal action.

“We should check this class-action suit,” he said.

A no vote merely means they want more information.

The vote was to go ahead but to obtain the information. Oakes said he can bring in company representatives.

Wright said the issue would be discussed at the workshop.