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Canton Board of Education Advocates Inclusion of Complete Track, Field Project in Potential Bonding Package

Despite increased price tag, education officials say it is an important project.

The price tag may be higher than estimates from earlier this year but the Board of Education Tuesday agreed to request that a proposed track and mutli-use field at Canton High School be fully funded in November. Town boards have recommended that the project and three others go into a bonding package for November vote(s) but the Board of Finance has not made any final decisions.

This summer, the Board of Education hired Milone & MacBroom of Cheshire to come up with refined estimates for the project.

The company’s estimate for the track and field project is approximately $3.1 million, which includes the components, architectural, engineering and site work costs. It also provided numbers and details for parking lot improvements but those would come under a different portion of the bonding package. 

Vincent C. McDermott, senior vice president, landscaping architecture and planning with Milone & MacBroom, gave and overview of the project Tuesday.

Plans call for a regulation soccer sized field, which would accommodate other sports such as football and Lacrosse, he said.

The track as designed would still be six lanes all around but with an added eight-lane sprint section portion, allowing much more flexibility in meets, McDermott said.

It also calls for screening to help provide a buffer for nearby homes. Some aspects, such an extensive retaining wall and the height of field lighting would require approvals from town boards, he added. He said lighting would not be intrusive but would "glow." He added that some schools restrict the lighting hours, which helps the projects gain community acceptance, an idea school board members agreed with.  

The firm also investigated other issues with the track, for example, eliminating the possibility of placing it on the east side of the school due to wetlands issues and checking for contaminants, which were not found on site.

Initially, a town capital study group suggested the bonding proposal included a recommendation to bond for $1.2 million of a then-estimated $2.2 million track project.

The idea was that some of the items could be done later or come via fundraisings, grants, sponsorships and in-kind donations.

Like many projects proposed for bonding, the estimates given earlier in the year were preliminary. 

In addition, factors such as the need for a retaining wall and proper drainage helped drive up the project’s costs, McDermott said.

Board of Education chairwoman Beth Kandrysawtz said there has also been much talk over the summer as to whether it makes sense to do only a portion of the project through bonding.

While some items such as a scoreboard, bleachers or lights could be done at a later time, McDermott said the major pieces of the project should really be done as a whole. For example, the town could not start out with natural turf and then change to artificial without incurring huge costs, he said.

Lights could be added later but much of the infrastructure would have to be put in place due to configuration and limited space on the site, he added. You don’t want to drive heavy equipment on the track, he said.

Kandrysawtz then suggested the board ask the finance board to fund the entire project — or nearly all of it — in a bond package to which other members agreed. 

The scoreboard and bleachers may be two items that could be deffered, officials said. 

While the price is higher school officials said they still feel the facility will provide a much-needed resource. It addresses the shortage of fields due to the increased usage it can handle both in terms of hours a day and months per year.

McDermott said over its life span, a lit turf field is equivalent to 2 or 2 ½ natural grass fields.

Kandrysawtz acknowledged that there would still be resistance from some abutting property owners, she felt it would be good for the town.

“As it’s configured here, this does an amazing amount for the community, “ she said.

Athletic director Dee Stephan said she also feels people sometimes get lost in the numbers and forget what an asset the project would be for youth of the town.

“I think people have forgotten about the kids to some degree,” she said.

Earlier the capital study group recommended a total of four projects go into a bonding package and be presented to voters at a November referendum.

In the late spring, the projects including the track, new town garage and site, roof replacements and roadwork came with a working estimate of approximately $18 million. Now, however, officials are saying many of the projects are being estimated higher than originally thought.

Tonight the Permanent Municipal Building Committee will receive an update on the track, roofs and garage. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the community center.

The Board of Selectmen and finance will further discuss the projects next week. The finance board has not made a decision on the proposed bonding but had asked for firmer estimates. 

Selectmen and finance board members will meet next Monday as well. Specifics on the meeting time and place will be forthcoming. 

Andrew Charron August 16, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Betty is correct and as a member of EDA this town needs to allow for businesses to grow and flourish in town to support inevitable inflation of expenses. The track project should be voted on separately and stand on it's own merits so I agree wtih Andrew Z that each voter should have a say in this process. The major concern from my perspective is the bundling of these projects together does not allow for voters to voice their opinion on each issue. The roads, roofs, garage and track are not intertwined and should be looked at on their own merits. I urge everyone to let the BOS and BOF know that these projects need to be approved by the voters individually. I personally have been to both the track and garage meetings recently and the costs seem high for both. An $8m garage just does not make sense for this town and I would urge us to find better alternatives. The track is a little high as well but the benefits are imense for not just our children but everyone in town from a fitness level. There is a meeting this coming Monday to discuss the CIP projects and all of us should attend to become informed voters. Regardless if you are for or against any of the projects we should all be engaged in the process.
Canton Taxpayer August 16, 2012 at 07:01 PM
No kidding.....spend spend spend....all the talk about 'for the children' and guess what? those kids will still be paying for it if - IF - they stay in Canton....
Canton Taxpayer August 16, 2012 at 07:03 PM
LOL....no kidding. And originally the 'for the children' folks said 'one little million dollar' track. Now it's $3.1m....and no more talk about fundraisers and donations to make up the previous $1 million shortfall....
Canton Taxpayer August 16, 2012 at 07:07 PM
I agree they should NOT bundle this all into one request for $22m in debt, but for different reasons. I've been to both meetings as well and while the $7m garage is costly, the land and site work issues are the cost-drivers. The track & field - well - that's just a bonus for a rich town.....which Canton is not.
Betty August 16, 2012 at 07:37 PM
I think Andrew C. and Andrew Z. make some very good points. It is a very good idea that everyone voting in November: 1) Have a very clear understanding of what our financial needs will be over the next 10 years. We all need to understand the big picture. 2) I am looking forward to reading the responses to the Community Facilities portion of the POCD Update Committee. What does the BOE foresee their expenses to be over the next 10 years? We need to understand how the track and possible pool fit in to our expenses over the next 10 years. We do not want to see any surprises. We want to have an explanation on the town website of what recommendations are being made and why. Example, why does this bonding package only addresses 7 million of the of the $17,880,000. backlog of deferred road maintenance in Canton? 4) An easy link to the Pavement Management Report, and the Capitol Project Committee Report, and other relevant reports. 5) Be able to vote on each item on it’s own merits.

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