School district considers alternatives to crumb rubber

Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

The Tantasqua Regional School Committee has nixed the idea of using the very popular but controversial “crumb rubber” as the surface for two artificial fields but is going ahead with the project as planned.

Deborah J. Boyd, associate superintendent of business and finance for the school district, said the two Tantasqua Regional High School fields are “the main football field stadium” and “the cage,” which is behind the school and enclosed by a fence.

Ms. Boyd said the review committee has chosen the Weymouth-based engineering consultant Gale Associates Inc. for the project and the firm plans to start installation of the fields in the next couple of months.

“After doing some research and meeting with a number of design firms, and getting as much information as possible, everyone agreed,” Ms. Boyd said. “So we reported to the full committee that we do not want to use crumb rubber on this project. And we wanted to make sure the full committee agreed, which they do agree.”

Ms. Boyd said the school district is still reviewing what kind of surface to use for the proposed fields, but it will not be crumb rubber, which is made from recycled tires.

“There are very limited number of organic or non-crumb rubber fields,” Ms. Boyd said. “But there are options out there and it’s becoming more and more, because studies have increased lately that there are new products that are increasingly being used. We’ve got to see some and feel some before we decide for sure which one we want.”

Ms. Boyd said not using crumb rubber is going to jack up the price of the project, adding 100,000 to $200,000 per field.

Still, Ms. Boyd said, the proposed $2.1 million project is proceeding optimistically because of the competitive options. She said they received 10 bids, just for design services, and non-stop phone and emails from contractors and material distributors trying to introduce their product.

“We have a voted limit of $2.1 million for the project and we’re hoping that it’s a very competitive industry and we can still pull this off with the two fields,” Ms. Boyd said. “Worst case and something terrible happens, we would have to do just one field or look at our alternatives. We’re not looking to borrow more than $2.1 million.”

On Dec. 15, the school committee unanimously voted to appropriate $50,000 from its School Choice Revolving Fund and $50,000 from its Summer Camps Revolving Fund for the engineering and design services for the artificial turf project. No debt will be incurred for these services. District funds will cover them.

In addition, the school committee unanimously voted that the district incur debt up to $2.1 million for the design and construction of the artificial turf fields, resurfacing the track and making the press box accessible.

Ms. Boyd stresses that none of the five district towns would see an increase in debt payments, nor would the operating budgets increase because of the bond payments.

A project committee, which includes the high school principal and athletic director, as well as three school committee members to be picked out by the chair, is being set up.