Construction on QA's turf fields to begin in June

From left, Queen Anne's County Commissioner Phil Dumenil, Del. Jeff Ghrist, state Sen. Steve Hershey, Commissioner Jim Moran and County Administrator Todd Mohn recently sought additional state funding to renovate and expand the track at Queen Anne’s County High School as part of the turf field project.

CENTREVILLE — The $2.3 million turf field project at Kent Island and Queen Anne’s County high schools is approved, and construction is scheduled to begin the first part of June after graduation ceremonies, Queen Anne’s County Administrator Todd Mohn confirmed Tuesday, April 2.

The project is a partnership between county government, which is funding it, and the Queen Anne’s County Board of Education, which owns the property, although the final details of the memorandum of understanding remain to be worked out, Mohn said.

Money for the project includes $296,000 in Open Space funds, $1.4 million from impact fees and $640,000 from the county’s capital projects fund balance.

The lack of an MOU was a point of concern during the school board’s March meeting.

Sid Pinder, director of operations for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, told board members the commissioners were seeking their permission to put the turf fields in the high school stadiums, but they needed to decide that night or the county would change direction and put the turf fields in county parks.

With the record rainfall in the county last year, Pinder said he knew at least one football game had been moved and there were concerns about the lacrosse and soccer playoff games; there have been a lot of issues with fields and they’re expensive to maintain, he said.

Turf fields will give you 10 to 12 years, he said, and you’d also save by not having to reschedule or move games.

Board Vice President Tammy Harper said currently the band at QACHS runs the concession stand, and the Athletic Boosters run the one at KIHS. She asked if the schools could still run the concessions when the fields were being used by another organization.

Board President Beverly Kelley said they should have no compete rules.

Board member Sharyn Harlow asked where the money paid to rent the fields would go.

Pinder said the bulk of the rental fees would go into a fund to maintain and replace the fields.

Harlow said while she was split on the matter, “My constituents are not. They adamantly want these fields.”

She said she’d rather see something for “all” students, but “I support it because that’s what my voters want.”

Pinder said the fields would be used for five different sports — and the bands, board members reminded him.

Kelley, Harper, Harlow and board member Michele Morrissette all agreed they were uncomfortable voting to approve the locations without an MOU in place.

Morrissette said she wanted to be sure school activities had priority for field use.

Harper asked Pinder if he would negotiate a good MOU.

“Yes, I will get you a good MOU,” Pinder promised.

The school board voted 4-0 to approve the locations.

Pinder said contractor FieldTurf wanted start work on the project in May in order to be done by the opening of the 2019-2020 school year, which meant this year’s graduations would be inside.

The board of education decided it wanted to wait so graduations could be held outdoors, weather permitting, Mohn said.

If the contractor starts June 1, “the plan is to get everything ready to go by fall,” Mohn said.

June, July and August are prime time for construction projects, and if the fields aren’t quite finished by the first games, they’ve talked about making those away games, he said.

In making plans for the field replacements, they discovered the field at QACHS, which was built in the 1960s, is no longer regulation. Safety standards have changed, and the amount of space required between the edge of the field, the sidelines and the spectators has changed, so they’ll have to remove lanes of track, Pinder said.

Aryelle Miles, QACHS student school board member, is also captain of the school’s outdoor track and field team. She expressed concerns about Senior Night and the Nesbit Relays if the school doesn’t have its own track for meets.

Currently, QACHS has six lanes; KI has eight. The turf field project will take out two more lanes at QACHS. So, the QACHS track wouldn’t be used for competitions in 2019-2020. Instead, those athletes would compete at KI until the track at QACHS is renovated and expanded.

Phase 2 of the project, tentatively slated for the next year, would install an eight-lane track at QACHS, move back the stands and lighting and make the stadium ADA compliant, Pinder said. The cost for that is projected at $700,000 to $800,000.

Commissioners Jim Moran and Phil Dumenil, Mohn, Sen. Steve Hershey, R-36th, and Del. Jeff Ghrist, R-36th-Caroline, sought additional state funding March 10 in Annapolis for the track project.

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