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Fayette sports parents push for $3.12 million for 5 turf fields

For Whitewater High School parent Darrell Baker and McIntosh High School parent Sally Herman it is an idea whose time has come. The two parents at the March 5 meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education proposed that the next penny sales tax for education (ESPLOST) include funding for synthetic turf fields at each of the county’s high schools.

Herman at the outset of the presentation said the objective was to provide all five Fayette County high schools with synthetic turf fields with the hope of having the proposal included in the next ESPLOST initiative. Herman and Baker explained that, if agreed to by the board, voted in by residents and installed, their children would have already graduated.

Baker and Herman during the presentation were quick to note that they would not want the inclusion of turf fields in an upcoming ESPLOST list to jeopardize or defeat the overall initiative.

Herman said the initial cost of turf fields is high, though over a 10-year period those fields cost less to maintain than grass fields. Outlining the total cost of installing and maintaining grass fields and synthetic fields over 10 years, Herman said grass fields come in at $480,500 while turf fields have a cost of $629,000. Noting that there is more to the story, Herman said that grass fields over 10 years can sustain 10,000 hours of play while turf fields can accommodate 30,000 hours of play. That difference translates into a per hour cost of $48 for grass fields and $21 for turf fields, she said.

“It boils down to grass not being able to take the amount of play consistently. The fields are decimated after spring sports,” Baker said, noting the difficulty parents have in getting the fields in shape for the sports coming up later in the year. It is an expense paid not by the school system, but by booster clubs and parents.

The total cost for all five high school fields to have turf installed would be an estimated $3.12 million and would carry a 10-year lifetime. Herman said that having synthetic turf re-surfaced after 10 years amounts to about 60 percent of the original cost since some of the work would not have to be repeated.

As for their reasoning to switch to synthetic turf, Herman said she believed the fields would add to the county’s property values because it would show that Fayette is aware of the value of maintaining and upgrading facilities to stay competitive with surrounding metro Atlanta high schools such as Coweta County that is installing synthetic turf at its three high schools.

“We want to be a community that invests in itself,” Herman said.

Turf fields would also create a venue for tournaments and state championships in a variety of sports, Herman said, and they create venues for city recreation departments to rent the facilities for league play and tournaments.

Turf fields carry a number of benefits, said Herman, adding that the most important benefit is that turf fields provide for unlimited use.

Baker said grass fields can be used for approximately 1,000 hours per year. The number of hours is limited by the damage done to the grass surface and the time needed to remediate the damage. The available play time on synthetic turf is essentially unlimited, providing the ability to sustain play for the 3,000 hours that would meet the requirements of all applicable sports year-round.

Herman said other examples of the benefits of turf include a 10-year lifetime, less expense to maintain compared to grass, no risk of user sensitivity to chemicals applied to grass fields, permanent paintings and markings, no loss of the field due to wet conditions, less concerns over safety because turf fields are softer than grass fields and virtually no maintenance issues.

Asked by Superintendent Jeff Bearden how much the school system spends on the fields, Facilities Director Mike Satterfield said the school system pays for lights and water only. Satterfield said the school system used to help apply sand for top dressing at a cost of $10,000 per year but had to abandon that practice three years ago.

Satterfield agreed with Baker and Herman that the overwhelming cost of maintaining the football fields rests with parents in the form of booster clubs or athletic funds.

Baker added that the cost of maintaining the fields for football runs approximately $35,000 per year. That does not include the cost of approximately $1,000 per year per student to participate in a sport, he said.

Addressing community concerns about turf fields, Herman said those concerns tend to be based on misinformation.

Pertaining to safety and injuries, Herman said studies have shown that there is virtually no difference in injuries on grass versus synthetic turf.

And in terms of money, Herman said a voter-approved ESPLOST would be an extension of the current penny sales tax, not a new one, with revenues coming from anyone who spends money in Fayette County.

Another concern relates to why turf fields would be considered given potential cost-cutting measures such as teacher furloughs. Herman said if put on the ballot and approved by voters, the ESPLOST is used for capital improvements and cannot be used for salaries.

And again noting the expense, Herman reiterated the points she and Baker had made moments earlier where the per hour cost is less for turf.

Baker and Herman asked if the school board would consider putting a survey on the school system website to get public input on the issue. After a discussion on the request Bearden said a draft survey would be completed and returned to the school board for consideration.

Meantime, Herman and Baker said they are in process of securing what they hope will be 10,000 signatures in support of the proposed turf fields project.

“School systems don’t have the money that they used to. These sports parents have invested an extreme amount of money,” Baker said, noting a cost of $3,000-5,000 when his three children played on sports teams.

Bearden and board members thanked Herman and Baker for the detailed presentation.

“We couldn’t have the athletic program we have without parents like these two,” Bearden said.

The current one-penny ESPLOST expires in April 2014 and could be put before voters as early as November.



One word is appropriate here - no.

For the life of me, I don't understand the motivation here. While I agree that it would probably be a nice thing to do, I just don't see tieing this to the ESPLOST funding. If those who participate in high school athletics want to see their children play on artificial fields, then by all means, write the check. Personally, I don't send my children to school to play football, lacrosse, etc., or to be salesmen, for that matter. I send them to school for an education, so that they can be productive citizens. Athletics certainly helps in that, and I don't deny that it does, but as a parent AND A TAXPAYER (and a small businessman who has to collect that tax, and send it on), I have issues with the continued emphasis on the "jock" aspect of the high school experience.

There were two things addressed in an earlier post from Ms. Herman that bother me. One, that she used a letter from the athletic director at McEachern High in Cobb County to substantiate her position. Using McEachern is a false analogy - that particular school operates off a very large endowment, and for the most part, gets whatever they would like to have. Go have a look at the campus - it's incredible, but certainly didn't get that way from taxpayer dollars.

Secondly, the comment has been made that having artificial turf will increase property values. I simply don't understand that. I just don't see an MLS listing that says, "Beautiful 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath two-story home on large lot, close to shopping, hospital, and high school with artificial turf football field". Am I missing something?

Keep the ESPLOST for what it was designed for; to supplement those must- have things that the district needs, get them off the budget outlay if possible, so that funding can be reconciled. Have you considered the fact that most of the non-teaching position employees haven't had a raise in seven years, and with furlough days and inflation being considered, they have suffered a 20 to 25% loss of pay. Don't tell me that the ESPLOST can't pay for that - I know that - but ESPLOST can free up funding elsewhere in order to properly compensate the people who support the teaching mechanism. Without an infrastructure, the main effort will fail.

If this initiative is attached to the ESPLOST, I doubt seriously it will pass. In today's environment, with today's economy, this is just not practical. Let's not emulate the federal government, spending money we just don't have, on things that are nice, but not absolutely necessary.

Those are my thoughts. Let's hear yours.

Ahhh yes, more management by survey. C'mon BOE, how about displaying some leadership and the ability to make well-thought out decisions on your own.
PS: I vote to table until 2014 and revisit only if economic situation realizes significant improvement.

These people need a reality check. You don't need a million dollar facility for high school sports. Valdosta State and West Georgia don't play on turf fields, why the heck would we need it for PUBLIC high schools? Do you ever wonder why people say "we" live in a bubble? It's because of rationale like this. I will not vote for ESPLOST if this is included.

We are about to see 2 science teachers cut from each high school and class sizes of 30 plus, increased medical costs and more unpaid teaching days because of FCBOE lack of funding (and foresight). This is despite initiatives mandating that each student take 4 years of science and the President's stated commitment to education, particularly science. The quality of education is about to implode, yet a few parents want to spend millions on grass... better yet, astroturf. It boggles the mind.

Let’s see: you want to spend millions of dollars for turf on the football fields, yet Whitewater already has a million dollar athletic field that has a baseball field with no restrooms! Just two blue plastic john’s that smell so bad you have to hold your nose to use them. Get real: spend money where its needed.

The Fayette BOE has a budget deficit of >$7 million next fiscal year. There will be layoffs and furloughs among other austerity measures to balance the budget. It will be painful. How on earth will the BOE and citizens of Fayette County explain to these teachers we’ll be laying them off because we thought plastic grass was more important than their contribution efforts to educate our children? This entire concept is absolute insanity.

I have two kids in FCHS. But, I will vote no on ESPLOST and save my money to send my kids to college. And whether or not that university has plastic grass on its ball field/s won't be among the criteria I consider...

the teams run all over me.

you're so easy. For a million, I bet you'd let them Tebow you, too.

Me, for a cool 100k, I'd let Tom Brady...oh never mind. You're easy, I'm cheap. What can we say?

bow for a million----sounds like we are birds of a feather----but I take offense--I may be easy but I am not that cheap!!!

post----you will have to split your gains three ways---there is only me--so who's cheap now, huh?

NUK_1's picture

That's the only issue coming up with the BOE these days. It didn't matter to most(not all, sugarfoot and Chris P. Bacon et all have known it for years)of FC citizens what was going on with the BOE for about 20 frickin' years until Pressberg got to be chairman. For all the wrong and extremely ignorant reasons, at least that event has awakened the sleepy people in FC to get rid of Smola and Smith. DUH.

Artificial turf right now when the school system is being crushed with the gross financial mismanagement and incompetence of the BOE is a no-go. Replace some of the village idiots with some who can at least can display basic competence and then come back with this idea. Giving the present BOE anything besides a kick in the azz is a waste of money and time. Same goes for Bearden who has done very little at all to impress upon me that he has any clue whatsoever. I tried to give him a chance and he's really lacking on basic financial principles of running anything.

suggarfoot's picture

I respect your opinions. Around 77% of our taxes go to the schools. Quite a handsome amount of money. Enough money to make a few mistakes and still have a wonderful school system with all the trimmings.

But instead, all that money has been used as a learning tool for a

1.developers wife


2.a woman with at best, a two year degree in psychology who vaguely touted herself as a wizardess of wall street

I just hope someone from the Tyrone area will step forward and run and not leave it to others.

Let's face it. My dogs could run and beat Smola on her record.

But the sad deal is..

.will anyone care enough about their children's future to step up and run?

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