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Supervisors, School Board talk turf and growth at CIP presentation meeting

Turf, growth and money dominated a Dec. 7 meeting between the county's Board of Supervisors and School Board at which school representatives presented their Capital Improvement Plan from fiscal 2018 through 2023.

The joint meeting on the School Board’s CIP came a day after supervisors voted to direct staff to conduct a literature search for synthetic turf field materials Loudoun County Public Schools might consider as an alternative to the potentially harmful crumb rubber infill.

“So you would be open then if we were to come up with that as an alternative that would a cost effective alternative for both bodies and would not result in any delays to go that route instead?” Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) asked the School Board.

School Board Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) said they too had discussed different options, but noted those options could be more expensive. The School Board also worried that with other options, they might not know the immediate durability of the fields.

But Hornberger expressed a willingness to give it a try.

“I think things are changing rapidly in this industry and so we can always take a look at that again,” Hornberger said.

Before supervisors voted to look into alternatives to CRI, they had considered deferring consideration on any funding requests for specific LCPS synthetic turf fields until the School Board agreed to allow testing of crumb rubber infill at three designated turf fields – a motion that ultimately failed.

The vote followed the School Board’s decision to speed up the installation of turf fields at Briar Woods, Dominion, Freedom and Heritage high schools to fiscal 2019 for $8 million.

Growth

As the county’s grapples with rapid growth, supervisors have stressed the need for getting better data on what kind of developments are coming online, their location and better projections on how many people a particular development will generate once built.

In the meantime, the School Board, too, has been dealing with school overcrowding and the need to renovate more schools around the county.

Assistant LCPS Superintendent Kevin Lewis said that staff was looking into the future and including a 2024 to 2027 capital project forecast to better align with the county’s capital needs assessment documents.

Lewis said LCPS had a “number of conversations” with county staff to develop a “similar system to look at our inventory of facilities and having a well-established 30-to 40-year plan to renovate our buildings on their lifecycle.”

The assistant superintendent also said LCPS was doing a “great deal of work” with county staff to “accommodate the anticipated future growth.”

“We’re working together to find a systematic way that both boards can accept and buy into and support to manage the potential future growth changes that are happening right now that you all are looking at with the comprehensive plan, Silver Line,” Lewis said.

With the county’s future land use plan around the future Silver Line Metro stations still in the works – the Silver Line comprehensive plan amendment – some supervisors asked if there was a formal process by which the School Board could provide input on the CPAM.

“I’d like to know that we have a formal process by which the School Board can give input into what kind of planning we’re doing because we’re moving pretty quickly at the supervisor level because we need to start getting tax revenues to pay capital costs,” Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) said. “But as a result of that, we’re talking about issues that have implications for the schools and one of those is a significant increase in residential density.”

The Board of Supervisors and School Board will meet again to discuss the CIP – a process they have agreed to start earlier on than in previous years. Supervisors will then vote on how to fund the CIP.

Comments


ALL projects requiring capital at levels the BOS or School Board is required to approve MUST BE SUPPORTED BY FINANCIAL ANALYSIS JUSTIFYING IT! Turf fields built on land that could or already has a water well CAN’t be financially justified over regular grass. This conclusion is based on my years as chair of finance committee while on the school board for 8 years. This included approving the Tuscarora and Woodgrove High school turf fields which were first to have such fields and were financially justified at about $1/2 million each with a 10 year warranty not $2 million as being proposed now. Neither Tuscarora (karst topography) not Woodgrove (lack of water) could justify standard grass fields versus the turf option. Compare that to a Broadrun which had a fully functioning water well. Turf fields would not be justified if honestly analyzed in my opinion and experience where water such as was the case at Broadrun is available. I hope the BOS does its job to discipline this spending without accountability habit.
Bob O__ Esq.

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