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CIP passes with $8 million for turf fields, School Board ponders Lincoln Elementary

If the School Board gets it way, each Loudoun County high school will have the same turf fields to play on by the end of fiscal 2017.

The fields will be funded through $8 million added to the school systems’ Capital Improvement Program (CIP) from fiscal 2014 to 2018, which the board approved during a Jan. 8 business meeting.

The renovations were approved in increments of $2 million, or two fields per year for eight total, for fiscal 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 by a 7-2 vote. 

Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) also said he wanted to involve the public in fundraising to pay for the fields.

School Board members Debbie Rose (Algonkian) and Bill Fox (Leesburg) said that they didn’t like the idea of setting aside $2 million every year without cost controls.

“We have to have that policy set in place to engage the public before I can approve $2 million,” Rose said.

Fox said a policy needed to be in place that set out guidelines for the costs for installing turf fields and called it an earmark.

“I don’t want there just to be an assumption that $2 million is going to get spent every year on turf fields,” Fox said. “In my view it looks irresponsible at this point.”

School Board member Jeff Morse (Dulles) said that not naming the schools allowed the School Board to decide who should receive the fields first, independent of pressure from the Board of Supervisors.

“This first approach is enabling us to get the supervisors on board before we start down the road of what is the prioritization of schools,” Morse said. “We should find out if they’ll, the Supervisors, are willing to support this initiative.”

The Joint Committee of the School Board and Board of Supervisors approved putting in the eight turf fields.

The CIP for fiscal 2014 to 2017 totals about $274.7 million. It includes funding for the construction for two new middle schools, MS-7 and MS-9; another elementary school in the Dulles North area, ES-27 and a separate building to house the Monroe Technology Center and Academy of Sciences.

By far the most expensive item, Monroe Tech would cost the county $109 million. It’s currently planned as a satellite facility for students enrolled in the Academy of Sciences in addition to Monroe students.

The CIP passed unanimously, despite the turf field debate. Also passed during the meeting was the school system’s Capital Asset Preservation Program (CAPP), which handles major maintenance and upkeep of school system buildings.

During the discussion, Morse proposed eliminating the Lincoln Elementary School HVAC units, electrical system upgrades and replacement fire alarm systems, which totaled about $310,000.

He said the school, one of the oldest in Loudoun with a population of 65 students, had costs too great to justify the upgrade.

“It dawned on me that we are beginning a phase where certain facilities where we are investing great sums of money for very limited return,” Morse said.

He said if his motion passed they would discuss “what to do” about Lincoln.

Vice Chair Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge), said the proposal was ultimately about closing Lincoln to save money, calling it the “elephant in the room.”

“I don’t feel that this is an appropriate way to approach that elephant in the room,” Turgeon said. “If this is something that the board is going to consider it needs to be done rather than a back-door approach.”

She said cutting off maintenance fees was like strangling Lincoln and letting it die.

Fox said that people should be aware that the School Board might have to consider closing schools, giving the $55.9 million revenue gap expected to come from the Board of Supervisors.

“I think given the tight budget situation we’re looking at this year, board members should be on notice that this is a possible topic of conversation, and not just Lincoln but other small schools in western Loudoun as well,” Fox said.

School Board members also inquired if they might be able to turn the school back to the county or otherwise take maintaining the building off the budget.

“There may be other school uses for Lincoln,” Superintendent Edgar Hatrick said. “Purcellville is the demographic center of western Loudoun and this is just outside that.”
Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin), who has Lincoln in her district, objected to the motion.

“I don’t think any board member would appreciate this being done in his or her area,” Bergel said. “There’s nothing else in this CAPP for Lincoln Elementary.”
Morse ultimately withdrew the motion.


Don’t suppose the Loudoun Times Mirror would send a reporter to get the data on how many times the current turf fields were “rented” out, to which organizations, how much revenue was brought in and where that revenue went to.  I know organizations that were willing to “pay to play” and were turned away.

The school that had their sod replaced most recently should be the last ones to get artificial turf. As you need to resod every 3 years the 3rd year should be 2 fields. Where is the Kevin kuesters he is the biggest mouth for this bs at the beginning?

Numbers of uses divided into costs then we’ll have a answer.

What a great idea….put in lots of artificial turf and tell everyone that they are revenue producers for the district (but don’t tell us if any revenue has been produced so far) meanwhile, let’s close the Blue Ribbon school because after all, athletics are so much more deserving of the money than academics.  Great message….

It would be interesting to see how much revenue the 3 high schools have generated so far.
1 million per field plus 5k a year maintenance equals 1,050,000 per decade per field. Multiplies by 10 equals 10,500,000. Add the maintenance for the 3 schools that have artificial turf fields that comes to another 150,000 dollars so we have 10,650,000 dollars for 13 fields of artificial turf.
50,000 per field of natural grass times a decade equals 500,000 dollars a field, multiply this time the 13 high school and we have 6,500,000 or a difference between artificial turf and natural grass or 4,150,000 difference in costs. Are we really going to make that 4 plus million up in cost savings? If so show some numbers to back it up please.

@cshotton, actually they got it right, asking “are you playing on turf or grass” is a very acceptable statement. It is also used as common everyday language.  Nice try though.

it would be interesting to know the revenue that is now being generated by the turf fields located at Woodgrove HS and Tuscarora HS.  In addition, what are the maintenance costs versus real grass fields.  Releasing the cost/benefit analysis to the public may allow for more informed comments.

Seems like the budget hawks are all over this one. 
The reality is that this will save LCPS and taxpayers money.

Yes, the turf is going to cost $1mil per field, but the lifespan is over a decade, and most have warranties lasting 8+ years
The yearly maintenance costs are around 5k, vs. 50k+ for a natural grass field. 
Paint, mowing, overseeding, fertilizing, sod replacement, maintenance on equipment, and labor to do all of this drives up the cost on natural grass. 

Now all schools can practice on site in all weather.  No more shipping teams off site on a bus to practice in the afternoon.  Less bus driver hours, gas, insurance, benefits waiting for practice to end and drive the team back to the high school. 

Also LC parks and recreation can get many more hours and usage fees from them, or the schools can rent them out. 

No more cancellations due to rain, and the fields wont get trashed the day after a storm any more. 

Big plus to our school system and to the county.

310 thousand plus staff of what 750 thousand and you have a million dollar school for 31 kids. yikes already!

Fake or real, approving $2M a year for sports fields while proposing to close an elementary school to save $310K in maintenance costs is ludicrous. Elementary education is the foundation on which everything else is built.

$8M for fields where extracurricular sports are played.  Wow.  Should we buy a training facility like what they have in Ashburn for the Redskins next?  Wouldn’t want the student athletes to have anything but the best.

Is $8 million for grass the best use of tax dollars allocated to education?

The only person working to reduce the silly spending by Hatrick, the School Board and Loudoun County Board of Spending is Bill Fox. It seems we have a security issue that should be resolved before we start throwing money at turf fields wouldn’t you think? Since the BOS caved on the school cuts I see no reason to add to the CIP unless cuts are made elsewheres. It’s a spending problem stupid.

$8 million on grass?  Good use of tax money intended for “education”?

“Turf” means grass and roots and dirt, a natural field. “Artificial turf” is what the board authorized (e.g., AstroTurf, green carpet. Fake grass.) There is an incredibly huge semantic difference that the press seems unable to properly differentiate.

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