CENTREVILLE — Artificial turf fields in Queen Anne’s County got one step closer to being a reality with unanimous approval of a budget amendment by county commissioners at the Tuesday, Jan. 22, meeting.
Budget Amendment CC-15 addressed the $2.3 million required to convert the fields at Queen Anne’s County High School and Kent Island High School from natural grass to artificial turf. The amendment moved $1.3 million of impact fees set aside for county parks.
That total was comprised from $296,000 for parks and improvements funding with the remaining $639,000 from the Capital Fund balance.
“These are not operating dollar or (monies) that otherwise go towards school operating, teachers, or books. The majority is for parks and recreation improvements,” said Queen Anne’s County Administrator Gregg Todd.
During public comments, members of the community told commissioners of having to go outside the county to find athletic fields suitable for area competitions. They also noted the number of athletic events, such as home and playoff games in various sports, that cannot be held in the county due to the poor quality of the natural grass fields.
County Commissioner Jack Wilson echoed those sentiments saying that converting the fields clearly demonstrates both a community need and a more frugal way to maintaining the two fields in question.
“Both of these fields, right now, are money pits,” said Wilson. “It takes so much time away from our parks and recreation people they could be devoting to other parts in the county. It’s a drain on funds and environmentally, we’re dumping so much fertilizer and pesticides to maintain them.”
County Commissioner Jim Moran also said that the students lost both Spring and Fall sports due to the inability of those fields to be used. Once artificial turf is installed, he anticipates that recreational football programs could use them for Saturday games.
Even renting these fields out is back on the table once the turf is converted.
According to Moran, the county’s rental fees are 25 percent of those often charged on the western shore.
“I’m very pleased with this and this is something that the county needs for schools. We compete in the Anne Arundel County League and yet we don’t have the facilities to match up to them. Hopefully, in two weeks, we will be selecting and voting on the contractor to win the award,” Moran said.
One of the contractors in the running has worked in Howard County, where they currently have 30 artificial turf fields in their parks and recreation system alone.
Dorotheann Sadusky, a resident of the county for 48 years, joined three others in voicing support for the budget amendment.
“The (commissioners’) approval is a the first step to applying for additional monies through Open Space funds from the state,” said Sadusky. “I’ve witnesses the amazing growth in high school sports participation and in high school bands. The desire to compete by our young people is unmatched, but unfortunately, our playing field cannot accommodate the increased usage.”
Sadusky said the return on investment by converting the fields can be clearly seen in Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and Howard counties as well as other regions of the state.