Mt. Lebanon turf task force inches toward goal
By Matthew Santoni
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
A task force raising money to install artificial turf at two Mt. Lebanon fields raised almost a quarter of its $250,000 goal, but another advisory board spoke against the project on Tuesday.
The Sports Advisory Board's turf task force told Mt. Lebanon commissioners it raised $56,500 toward its share of an estimated $1 million to install artificial turf at Middle and Wildcat fields in the park off Cedar Boulevard.
“It doesn't seem like much, in terms of the whole thing, but it only reflects a handful of meetings with (youth sports) associations and not really casting that wide a net in the community,” said Dave Franklin,a member of the task force. “We're confident we'll get what we need by summer.”
The task force proposed a $15 hourly fee for sports groups to use each field, or $30 an hour to combine the baseball diamonds into a single large field for sports such as football or soccer, Franklin said. Assuming that just one-third of the fields' usable hours are paid for — the school district will use them for free in exchange for handling daily maintenance — the task force estimated the fees would raise about $12,000 a year.
But members of the Mt. Lebanon Environmental Sustainability Board, another volunteer advisory board, told commissioners they oppose the project and were left out of the process.
The board opposes the project because of its potential effect on runoff, chemicals in that runoff if the turf includes bits of rubber, and the possible health effects on young athletes, said member Maria Joseph.
“We ask that you seriously reconsider turf,” Joseph said. “If it goes forward, we urge you to use the organic infill.”
The commission could consider fill made of material such as cork when seeking bids for the project, said municipal engineer Dan Deiseroth.
Franklin said the environmental board must have known turf was a possibility, given that the topic drew dozens of speakers at commission meetings over a few years.
A plan to lay turf at Wildcat and Middle first came up in June 2012, although Joseph countered that none of the early plans were funded until a commission majority voted in December to reassign several years' worth of surplus money toward turf if the sports groups raise their share.
“I think we should have been notified that this was on the commission's radar,” Joseph said.
Commission President Kristen Linfante said the decision ultimately rests with commissioners. “At least three of us voted for it because we saw no other options, nowhere else to put fields.”
Deiseroth said designing the field can start this month. Bids would be opened in early June and construction could begin by late summer or early fall.
Matthew Santoni is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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