Real numbers needed for decision on natural vs. artificial turf on BUHS field

BRATTLEBORO — The question of how to provide access to athletic activities on the Brattleboro Union High School playing fields continues to occupy the attention of the Windham Southeast School District board, its finance committee, and the public at large.

I believe there are several steps to take that would permit an orderly examination of the alternatives and a reasonable conclusion to be reached.

The two biggest issues appear to be whether a natural-turf option on Natowich Field can provide adequate access for the students' needs, and how much the various approaches would cost.

In addition, environmental effects are everyone's concern and come into play after the access and budgetary requirements are met. Such concerns have been addressed, and mitigating strategies are on the table for recycling and for carbon impact.

Members of the school administration report that the natural turf option has been examined and does not meet the needs of the many team sports and other activities. Members of the public, however, or of the new unified school board, do not have current access to the underlying information by which the administration's conclusion was reached.

Even if that information has been presented to the public in the past, it should now be presented again for people to evaluate. An evaluation of reasonable suggestions should be included. Otherwise, this question will continue to impede any further progress.

Rough estimates of the cost have been prepared for the artificial turf approach. If there is a workable approach for natural turf, those cost estimates must also be provided. In either case, the only way to proceed beyond rough estimates is to have actual contractors tell us what their prices would be.

Given the time delays involved in issuing and receiving a request for proposals (RFP), and the ability to reject any and all RFPs received, I believe it makes sense for the school board to authorize RFPs at this time or in the near future for proposals that meet the legitimate needs for playing field access.

Taking this step does not commit the school district to any action. Failing to take this step in a timely fashion raises the possibility that the fields will not be ready for the next school year, or that costs will go up due to the delay.

Passionate and thoughtful voices have been heard on all sides of this issue. It is now time to take the steps that will answer the remaining questions and allow action to be taken. Specific motions made in committee and at the board level will permit the process to be focused and move forward, rather than merely lead to endless discussion.

Now is the time.

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