Turf field on hold Palmerton officials want to develop plan for school fields
A concept by Palmerton Area School District to add a $2.4 million multipurpose turf field appears to have been pushed to the sidelines.
That was the general consensus of the seven school directors on hand at Tuesday's board workshop after discussion with representatives from Barry Isett & Associates of Allentown.
In April, the board voted 6-3 to have the firm complete a site feasibility study for a potential multipurpose field located at the current football field and track site at the high school stadium.
The study, at an anticipated cost of $10,000, provided a full proposal for the construction of the new multipurpose field, complete with budget and financial estimates.
To date, Superintendent Scot Engler said about $9,500 of that cost has been spent and paid from the district's construction fund.
Several board members peppered engineer Kevin Markell, of Barry Isett & Associates, with a variety of questions.
Board President Tammy Recker asked how much it would cost the district to maintain a turf field on a yearly basis.
Director Sherry Haas asked for a cost comparison over the years if the district were to install a turf field versus maintaining the grass.
And Director Susan Debski asked why the district would want to make one field top-of-the-line when it has space problems to begin with.
Markell, estimating the approval process for the field could take between seven to 10 months, said the district may have to increase parking if it would not be successful in its quest to obtain variances.
Markell also said bleachers would have to be added, and stormwater issues would have to be addressed.
Debski let her thoughts on the turf field be known.
"I'm personally not interested in a turf field, but our track is horrendous," she said. "Is there any way we can do a track and not a turf field?"
Debski said she'd like to see the district formulate a step-by-step plan.
Director Chuck Myers asked how long the current field would be nonusable.
Markell said that depends on several factors.
Haas said she believes the students in the district need to have more options.
"We purchased property that's sitting there that has been totally not used," she said. "We need to look at something we can utilize for them to play on and practice on."
Several years ago, the district purchased several homes along Fireline Road and tore them down, with the intent to put in a softball field and a soccer practice field.
"I think there needs to be a plan," Recker said. "There's other things that will benefit the kids more."
She added, "I would love to have it (turf field) tomorrow."
Recker then questioned whether the concept was practical.
"I like the idea, but for me, not right now," Recker said. "We have to talk; I think that's how you make progress."
Debski agreed, and added that since she's been on the board, she has suggested the district needs to have a three- or five-year plan.
Haas added, "I looked at it as a wish list, not only for our students, but our community. We have top-notch administration in place."
Debski then suggested the district may eventually have to look at redistricting.
"These fields would be great, but (the current ones) are playable," she said. "But, the class(rooms) and teachers, it's a lasting effect."
In early April, Myers recommended that the district set aside $1.5 million and engage Isett about the potential all-weather football field and all-weather track. Myers said at that time the field would be for all sports, not just football.
Also at that time, Director Barry Scherer asked whether the board should have the district's engineer provide an estimate on improving the east end of the junior high school.
Scherer previously said there is an engineer drawing that could be given to the engineer to use as an aid to see what had been drawn up and proposed for that site.