The Amity Board of Education is asking taxpayers to approve a $6.7 million bonding request for several improvements to buildings and grounds, including, but not limited to, an all-weather field. The referendum is to be held Wednesday, December 4, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the usual polling locations in the three member towns.
Two sets of questions are being presented to the voters. The first set is for building improvements at the high and two middle schools; the second question regards the athletic facilities. A public hearing on the proposal had been scheduled for October 29 at the high school.
Amity Finance Director Terry Loomis and Athletic Director Ernie Goodwin have been talking to parent groups and to the selectmen of the three towns to explain the need for the projects, saying their request is a need, not a want. A detailed description of the projects is also available on the district website, https://www.amityregion5.org/district-information/district-news/post-details/~board/news/post/amity-school-board-moves-december-referendum-forward.
At the high school, for instance, the project would replace air handlers that have outlived their normal life expectancy and refurbish chillers. The high school has experienced a couple of unexpected failures, Loomis said when she addressed the Woodbridge Board of Selectmen. Also, part of this upgrade is to add air conditioning in the small gym, the last space in the building that currently is not air-conditioned.
At the middle schools, the district seeks to improve the acoustics in large gathering spaces, where it is difficult to hear announcements, Loomis said. “We want to make sure announcements come through, in particular for safety reasons,” she said. Affected are the gym and the cafeterias.
Also, part of question 1 is the last part of paving the parking lot at the high school. These building improvements would cost $3.2 million.
The second question on the ballot is for improvements to the athletic fields, namely installation of a new track; also turning the football field into a multi-sport stadium with all-weather surface; install LED lighting to replace the old field lights; and an LED scoreboard at the stadium as well as for Field 3. It also includes new permanent bleachers with an ADA compliant access way on Field 3. The cost for the athletic component is $3.5 million.
In all, this is a $6.7 million bond request, for a ten-year bond. The flagship of this project would be the re-furbished stadium, with a new track, a new all-weather field, new lights and a new scoreboard.
The lights and the scoreboard are both LED technology based. In addition to being more efficient, the new lights are much more focused than the old ones, and avoid “spillage” — the lights beaming out into the night. Woodbridge zoning has limited the high school lights to ten nights. In spite of improved lighting, they are planning to stick to that stipulation, Ernie Goodman said. The new lights come attached to metal poles rather than the telephone poles used for the current lights.
The proposed new scoreboards also use LED technology, and are a lot more efficient than the old one. They can be reprogrammed for any sport, Loomis said, which would be an important feature for a multi-sport field. They also have video streaming capability.
The current track was constructed 20 years ago and is worn. It would be replaced by a concrete base with a rubber layer on top.
The all-weather surface would allow the high school to use the new stadium field not only for football, but also field hockey, soccer and lacrosse. It would also allow PE classes to use the field during the day, rain or shine. Baseball, softball, cheer, dance and marching band also benefit. Even after nine inches of rain, the field would be ready to play within an hour, Goodwin said.
Loomis said Amity is the only town in its DERG (Economic Reference Group) that does not have an all-weather field. No tournaments are scheduled here due to the turf field. In fact, the district has to rent playtime in other towns to allow its athletes training time on these surfaces.
The surface for the suggested field would be made of cryogenic rubber, which according to Loomis, passes the European safety standard for toys. A study by the Department of Health did not find a significant health risk associated with this material. In fact, it decreases the risk for injuries.
When asked about the maintenance required for the new field, she said the district would purchase grooming equipment for ongoing maintenance. In addition, it would contract with a company to deep-clean the rubber surface every few years. Even so, the man-made field would require much less ongoing maintenance than a traditional turf field.
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent