The Titusville Area School Board approved a geological study of Carter Field which will determine the feasibility and some of the potential costs of converting the stadium’s grass field into an artificial turf playing area.
At their meeting Monday, the board hired the services of ELA Sports, of Lititz, Pennsylvania, to perform the survey to the tune of $22,200. The survey will examine the condition of the earth underneath the field. This will help to determine what ground preparation, if any, the board will have to perform if it wishes to lay artificial turf on the field.
The survey is expected to begin within the next two weeks, weather permitting, with results available after 30 days, according to Athletic Director Scott Salvo.
The vote was not without opposition, as board member Carol Shaffer cast her vote against the measure. Shaffer said that she had heard of cases of kids getting cancer as a result of interaction with artificial turf.
“I certainly wouldn’t want one of my grandchildren or one of my children to get cancer and find out that that’s where it came from,” Shaffer said.
She suggested that the board hold off an approving the survey until the spring so more information regarding the matter could be researched by the board.
Board member Jeremiah Morrison, however, said that making a connection between artificial turf and cancer one would be difficult in the first place due to the number of other potential factors that could otherwise be a cause.
The relation between artificial turf and cancer has been a matter of examination before. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, The “dirt” used in artificial turf is typically made from recycled tires, and there is concern about the safety of what might happen if someone ingested the material, such as may accidentally happen when falling on the field during a sporting event.
The Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry launched a study in 2016 that is still ongoing.
The board has still not voted yet on whether it will approve the laying of artificial turf at Carter Field or not. The matter was one of several capital projects first publicly discussed at the Sept. 9 board meeting, and is the only one not to receive approval as of yet.
Costs of the project is estimated at $1.8 million. In addition to laying artificial turf, the proposal also called for removing two rows of the stone grandstand seats in order to change the dimensions of the field. This will allow it to be used as a soccer field in addition to a football field.
Shaffer was not the only one to voice her opposition to the artificial turf field at the meeting. Local resident Dick Nichols also spoke out against the idea during the public comment section of the meeting.
Nichols said he believed the final price point of the project will likely be higher. He questioned the necessity of the project and expressed a belief that participation in football in Titusville was going down.
“I think there are people in this room tonight who will live to see no football in Titusville,” he said.
Titusville resident Ron Stewart suggested that the board hold a presentation of some kind to better inform the public about their reasons for supporting the field.
In response to comments made at the Nov. 11 meeting by Stewart, Superintendent Stephanie Keebler read a statement written by District Solicitor Timothy Sennett of the Knox Law Firm defending the board’s selection process to fill the empty seat left by former board member Char Eggleston, who resigned at the Oct. 14 meeting.
Stewart, who applied to fill the seat, had claimed that Board President Lynn Cressman had violated the Sunshine Act by interviewing Jeff Thomas outside of a meeting. Thomas was chosen to fill the seat.
Stewart reiterated his accusation during the opening public comments of the meeting. He called on Cressman to admit she had made a mistake and to rectify the problem.
However, the statement written by Sennett and read by Keebler said that the board did not violate the act. In it, Sennett said that the Sunshine Act applies to meetings of a committee, and that the conversation between Thomas and Cressman did not meet the qualifications to be defined as such.
“Ms. Cressman’s conversation with a candidate was not a pre-arranged gathering,” Sennett wrote in the statement. “As I understand it, she ran into the candidate out in the community by happenstance. Second, this conversation was not attended nor participated in by a quorum of the members of the committee. Finally, this conversation was not held for the purpose of deliberating committee business or taking official action.”
Cressman was one of the members of an ad hoc committee which was formed to find a replacement for Eggleston after she resigned. Cressman, speaking with The Herald, admitted that she had used the term “interview” while speaking at the committee’s meeting held Nov. 6, but indicated it was more of a conversation where the topic of the vacancy on the board happened to come up.
In the closing part of the statement, Sennett wrote that the school board “did take action which was done in an appropriate manner in accordance with the Pennsylvania Public School Code, the Sunshine Act, board policy and the administrative guidelines.”
Other meeting news
The board approved PNC Capital Markets LLC as the underwriter for the planned capital improvement projects, which include the artificial turf field, renovations to the high school gymnasium, renovations at the Early Childhood Learning Center and replacement of both the high school roof and heating and cooling units on the roof. The board anticipates taking out a roughly $10 million loan to help pay for the projects. Cost estimates for all four projects are currently between $10.8 million to $10.9 million, as presented at the Oct. 21 meeting. Under the proposed loan by PNC Capital Markets, the loan would be paid back in 2030 at a rate of $347,000 per year, according to Business Manager Shawn Sampson.
Shaffer was the sole voice of dissent in a vote on a budget resolution that prevents the board from raising taxes past a certain limit. The resolution is part of the Taxpayers Relief Act and requires the board to limit tax increases to a level set by an inflation index. If an increase above that index level is required, the tax raise must be put up for a public referendum. Shaffer said that she felt the board was getting by with raising taxes just under the limit, thus never getting public input on the matter.
The meeting was the last for board member Rick Skinner, who did not run for reelection this year. Skinner told The Herald that he has been honored to serve with the board for the past 12 years.
The next meeting of the Titusville Area School Board will take place on Dec. 2, at 7 p.m., at Titusville High School. The meeting will be the annual reorganization meeting.
Ray can be reached, by email, at email@example.com.