As Town Meeting nears, school officials pitched their plan for additional turf fields at the new Plymouth South High School, Monday night.
The school department wants to borrow an additional $3.7 million to pay for the fields, which would be located where the current high school building stands, But, those in attendance at Plymouth South Middle School seemed less interested in the cost and more interested in what they would be like.
Town Meeting, which meets on April 1, must approve the borrowing. Up to $1.8 million of the money would be repaid from the project’s contingency fund once the building is finished.
The fields would be used for softball, baseball, lacrosse and soccer. Having them would create parity between the two high schools athletic programs, Superintendent Gary Maestas said.
In response to a question about what would happen if Town Meeting didn’t approve the additional borrowing, Maestas said that a sod field could be installed, but that would take about two years to properly germinate. In the meantime, PSHS athletes would have to continue using other facilities. He did note however, that if needed a single field could be built using only the remainder of the contingency fund.
Another questioner asked whether dirt base paths could be included. Maestas pointed out that the fields are multipurpose and variations in their surface would be a problem.
Concern was raised about the possible health and safety risks associated with artificial turf. Maestas admitted it was a concern, but said that it has evolved over the years. School Committee Member James Sorenson added that some studies on professional athletes have raised questions, but that student athletes use fields far less. He also noted that grass fields require chemicals and fertilizer. “We’re trying to have something that’s safe for the students,” Maestas said.
The two fields, along with lights to go with them, were among items on an add-on list developed when the building was planned, Maestas said. The school department was able to pay for three of the items, the football field, a wastewater treatment facility and halftime facility for athletics, after persuading the Massachusetts School Building Authority to reduce the required contingency fund from 5 percent to 2.5 percent, he said. Maestas said the lights, which would cost $1 million, may be paid for via a deal to install solar panels on the school and on canopies in the parking lot.