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Field of dreams now a reality

The vote for $3.5 million in upgrades to Shenendehowa schools' athletic facilities was as close as any of the games that will be played there.

The project was passed 1,549-to-1,526, approved by a margin of 23 votes.

The school district is proposing to upgrade its 40-year-old, six-lane track to an eight-lane track and renovate the track and field event area. They will also add a multipurpose, synthetic turf field for football and other sports, new concession and bathroom facilities and 1,500 more bleacher seats.

The breakdown for the cost of the project is as follows: of the proposed $3.5 million, $2.5 million is eligible for state aid at 70 percent, for total aid of more than $1.78 million. The rest of the cost $1.72 million would come from a 2- to 6-cent tax increase per $1,000 of taxable property value, or about $4 to $12 per year on a home assessed at $200,000.

At a Nov. 27 public hearing on the project, no one spoke directly against the project, but that obviously wasn't a good barometer for how voters felt.

Samantha Kolner recently graduated from Shenendehowa High School. She said she was voting against the project because she thought the money could be better used for classroom education or the district's music programs.

"I'm a taxpayer now," said Kolner, 19. "I was never into sports, and I think the spending in this district should be a little more proportional when it comes to education versus sports. This project is unnecessarily large " I don't know who they're competing with."

Craig McLaren, who graduated the same year as Kolner, said he was involved in sports and that was exactly why he was voting the proposal down.

"I've had a lot of injuries on AstroTurf," he said.

The district spends between $35,000 and $40,000 a year maintaining the grass football field, Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson said. He added maintenance for the turf field would be cut to a fraction of that, between $4,000 and $5,000, and that the turf can be plowed and used in the winter.

When asked if the district looked at alternatives to the $3.5 million project, Robinson said, "The alternative is sodding and resodding, and limiting the number of uses for the fields."

Robinson said one of the biggest benefits of the turf field would be its ability to accommodate the 3,000 high school students who take twice-weekly gym classes. It would also be a boon to community activities and a safer environment for special needs students.

Robinson said the construction documents could be submitted by July 2008, with construction beginning in May of 2009 and completed by October of that year.""

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