Projection: One year to go for athletic complex

Projection: One year to go for athletic complex

SMITHFIELD – Supt. Judy Paolucci warned the School Committee on Monday that the track and football field at Smithfield High School’s Boyle Athletic Complex will no longer be able to support athletic events at this time next year due to its deteriorated condition.

School board members agreed that the town needs to create and take part in a building committee to plan improvements to the athletic complex.

Paolucci said the existing Athletics Capital Committee explored the scope and needs of the project as far as it could. A specific building committee is needed for the design, scope and financial options.

“To move for further consideration, it’s appropriate for a field to have a building committee,” Paolucci said.

She said the project needs to be put in the hands of the Smithfield Town Council for consideration.

The Capital Committee did get an estimate for its recommended scope of work of $3.3 million. The estimate includes a new track including spaces for track and field sporting events, an artificial turf football field, bleachers, a press box, and a scoreboard.

To save costs, plans for the athletic complex were reduced to not include a new concession stand or bathrooms.

“If any effort is to be made to bring the athletic complex to fruition before the fall of 2020 season, it must be done now,” Paolucci said.

She added there may be a year that the school can’t use the track to avoid injury liability.

While Paolucci proposed multiple funding options for the project, she said it will be the job for the recommended building committee to figure out how to pay for the project.

She offered multiple suggestions, such as a leasing payment plan from the contractor or using town and school funds to make a down payment on the project before going out to bid.

“What’s interesting is we really have options to really be more creative other than going out to bond and making payments,” Paolucci said.

Though the committee unanimously agreed to bring the matter to the Town Council, members expressed concern about the idea of using artificial turf over grass.

School Committee member Richard Iannitelli said he does not like artificial turf fields because the surface needs to be replaced in 8-10 years. Members Virginia Harnois and Kellie-Ann Heenan agreed, with Heenan expressing concerns about alleged increased cancer rates from artificial turf.

“I think we need to move it up to a higher level of who is responsible for investigating this further,” Paolucci said.

She said the existing field needs a new irrigation system and must be leveled again at the very least if the grass is to be kept.

“It’s really shameful that that’s what we have,” she said.

The existing athletic field has been a target of criticism for having cracks in the track, with grass popping up in places. The football field needs repairs as well. Paolucci said the surface needs rest between games and shouldn’t be used as a practice field for many of the district’s teams.

Repairs on the track, including crack filling, cannot be done again, according to Paolucci. She said the surface is so old that the layers underneath the track are compromised, and now it needs complete replacement.

She said replacing the track does not make sense if the football field needs work done soon after.

“If we wanted to get this done in an expedited manner, we would need to get this building committee done immediately,” she said.