Woodbridge Voters Reject Artificial Turf Field
Bethany, Woodbridge and Orange residents voted in favor of updating the fields at the high school and — in a separate question — the air handlers and miscellaneous building improvements at the two middle schools for a combined total of $6.7 million. The referendum on December 4 passed, with a vote of 1,204-445 in favor of the building projects; and 951-746 in favor of the field improvements.
Orange residents voted 659-148 in favor of the building improvements; and 539-279 in favor of the fields. Woodbridge residents voted 331-201 in favor of the building improvements, but rejected the fields, with 211 voting for, 321 against the proposal. In Bethany, residents supported the building improvements, 214-96; and narrowly supported the field project, 165-146.
The two questions put to the voters were as follows:
- Shall Regional School District Number 5 appropriate $3,194,300 and authorize the issue of bonds and temporary notes in the same amount for various improvements at Amity Regional High School, Amity Middle School, Bethany Campus and Amity Middle School, Orange Campus?
- Shall Regional School District Number 5 appropriate $3,538,000 and authorize the issue of bonds and temporary notes in the same amount for various athletic facility improvements at Amity Regional High School?
In detail, the district plans to replace eight air handlers at the high school, redo a part of the high school parking lot, and refurbish chillers at the high school; and at the two middle schools, install acoustical improvements in the gym, the music rooms and the cafeteria.
As far as the athletic facilities are concerned, the football field and surrounding track will be rebuilt and turned into an all-weather stadium with new LED lighting and a multi-sport, interactive score board. Field 3, which currently has no permanent bleachers and no light, will see both added, as well as a walkway to the bleachers and a multi-sport scoreboard.
Woodbridge residents in the past have rejected installation of an artificial all-weather field, primarily for health and environmental reasons. In a Facebook post a few days prior to the referendum, Woodbridge resident Jinny Schneider through the Conserve Woodbridge group warned voters about potential health risks from hormone-disrupting chemicals in rubber and plastics and referred to a letter penned by Dr. Diana Zuckerman, PhD from the National Center For Research (http://www.center4research.org/nchr-letter-dc-city-council…/. Schneider also referred to an alternative, saying “many of the turf fields in Fairfield County are made of cork and coconut fibers.”
District representatives meanwhile maintained that the chosen surface was considered safe by the Department of Health. During their presentation to the Woodbridge Board of Selectmen, Amity Finance Director Terry Loomis and Athletic Director Ernie Goodwin said the cryogenic rubber chosen for the project passes the European safety standard for toys.
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.
Amity School Supt. Dr. Jennifer Byars in a phone conversation after the referendum said the bulk of the construction — both indoors and outdoors — would be done during the summer of 2020. The only sport that may be affected by the construction is football in the fall of that year, and the district will have to work with other area high schools to come up with “creative scheduling” solutions. Track is a spring sport and should not be affected. Byars said the new stadium, with a newly refurbished track and LED scoreboard, is scheduled to open next fall, possibly in October.
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent