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Pleasant Valley approves replacement of turf field

Published March 15. 2019 12:15PM

In a 5-3 vote the Pleasant Valley school board directors approved the replacement of the turf field at the high school at a cost of $860,551.

The vote came after another lengthy discussion regarding the safety of the crumb rubber used to help cushion the field.

Directors Laura Jecker, Len Peeters and Donna Yozwiak presented their research on cancer statistics related to the use of the crumb rubber, the tiny black rubber balls found on turf fields.

Jecker relied on information published by the University of Washington Women’s Associate Head Soccer Coach Amy Griffin. Griffin raised the flag based on her concerns that there might be a link between the uses of the crumb rubber in soccer players, particularly goalies, in 2009.

“There is a huge debate on this subject,” said Director Dan Wunder. “I would never put any child on a field that I felt was unsafe.”

Wunder said he had spent last Sunday evening reading over 20 articles both in favor of and opposed to the use of crumb rubber and artificial turf and came away unpersuaded that there was any link between the uses of the crumb rubber and cancer.

“I read articles just like Mr. Wunder and some were very credible and frankly some were really off the wall,” said Director Ken Cocuzzo. “Without concrete evidence and a bona fide study by a federal agency, I just can’t see this as a cause-and-effect situation.”

Cocuzzo said, “Everyone has to search their own heart on this and vote their own way.”

In his presentation, Len Peeters used statistics regarding numbers of athletes, both young and old, to make his point. He said 260 athletes were diagnosed with cancer, mainly blood cancers, but a variety of types.

District Superintendent David Piperato asked Peeters for a comparison to the number of people in the general population with cancer. Peeters was unable to answer.

Piperato also read a letter from FieldTurf USA, the vendor chosen to replace the turf. The vendor offered a guarantee to the district that if any of the certifying environmental institutions were to add crumb rubber to the list of banned materials, that FieldTurf would remove the crumb rubber at no cost to the district.

The use of the turf field had been hotly debated during the Feb. 28 board meeting and again at last Monday evening’s building and grounds meeting.

Director Russell Gould expressed his frustration with the current direction that the board has taken on a number of issues and used the turf field discussion to illustrate his point.

“The replacement of the turf field has been discussed for 15 months,” Gould said. “And once again in the eleventh hour these questions are raised. You had many opportunities to raise these issues but chose now to raise them.

“This is a trend. It’s happening and I don’t understand it.”

Gould presented a timeline that showed no fewer than 15 meetings of either the Athletic Committee, the Buildings and Ground meetings and school board meetings where the replacement of the turf field was on the agenda, or openly discussed between November 2017 and February 2019.

Director Robert Serfass encouraged the directors to vote in favor of replacing the field.

“I walked the field again this week, it’s supposed to be 2 and a quarter inches. In some cases it’s so short all you see is the black from the crumb rubber and in some places it is actually separating,” he said. “We can’t put this off for safety reasons. That field shouldn’t be used another season.”

In the end the board voted in favor of replacing the field. Jecker, Peeters and Yozwiak voted against the motion.

Director Delbert Zacharias was not present.

The current field was installed in 2008 with cutbacks on the drainage design to decrease costs.

Even with the drainage problems, the district got 11 years out of the field, three to four years longer than the original design promised.

Approximately $200,000 of the cost of the new field is to improve drainage.

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