Commission blindsided us with turf project, Lebo board alleges

Published Feb 16, 2014 at 8:33 pm (Updated Feb 16, 2014 at 8:33 pm)

Feb. 11 saw a seemingly routine presentation on Mt. Lebanon’s field turf project devolve into a debate over whether the commission and Sports Advisory Board blindsided other groups with the original proposal. The commission approved an initial allocation of funds for turfing municipal fields at its Nov. 25 meeting.

Commissioner Kelly Fraasch, who opposes the project, triggered the spat when she asked whether the Parks Advisory or Environmental Sustainability Board (ESB) had weighed in on the Sports Advisory Board’s proposal.

Recreation director David Donnellan replied that the commission had not asked for official positions from either board.

In response, Fraasch invited Maria Joseph, a member of the ESB, to read a statement signed by six of seven ESB members.

“In the time I’ve been on the board, artificial turf was not brought up as a point of discussion, because we were told the funding was not there and this project would not move forward,” Joseph said. “We feel we should have been alerted to the fact this was something on the commission’s radar.”

The ESB statement touched on health concerns related to artificial turf, the negative environmental impact of runoff and potential water waste associated with cooling turf in the summer months.

Commissioner Dave Brumfield asserted that the turf issue has been discussed publicly for years and the proposal should not have surprised anyone in the community. “To say this hasn’t been out there is wrong,” he said, adding that the ESB statement came at a time when design specifics (such as using artificial turf versus organic infill) had yet to be finalized. Thus, the final design may mitigate or eliminate ESB concerns. “At times, we’re going to do certain things certain boards disagree with. We can’t go out and hand everything out to everyone who might possibly have an opinion on an issue,” Brumfield concluded.

Commission president Kristen Linfante echoed Brumfield’s statements. “I know you’re questioning whether we care what the ESB thinks,” she said. “But this especially is the point in the project where we need your input, especially as we consider design elements such as materials.”

According to the Turf Task Force presentation, a rough timetable would see the project bid in June with construction to begin sometime in late July or early August.

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