COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

AGENDA TITLE:

Synthetic Turf Athletic Fields

 

SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUEST:

Discussion of health and safety considerations regarding synthetic turf fields and approval of County funding participation.

 

STAFF CONTACT(S):

Messrs. Tucker, Elliott, Davis, Mullaney

 

LEGAL REVIEW:   Yes

 

 

AGENDA DATE:

December 3, 2008

 

ACTION:     X          INFORMATION:   

 

CONSENT AGENDA:

  ACTION:              INFORMATION:   

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:   Yes

 

REVIEWED BY:

 


BACKGROUND:

On November 5, 2008, the Board of Supervisors approved a reappropriation of County funding to be used in a School Board project to convert the three high school stadium fields from natural grass to synthetic turf subject to further discussion by the Board regarding health and safety concerns with synthetic turf.

 

STRATEGIC PLAN:

Goal 1:  Enhance the Quality of Life for all Citizens.

Goal 2:  Develop Policies and Infrastructure Improvements to Address the County’s Growing Needs.

 

DISCUSSION:

Across the country many local school systems and parks and recreation departments have converted natural grass fields to synthetic turf in an effort to increase the quantity and quality of available athletic field playing spaces.  This movement has created a debate as to whether the advantages of synthetic turf outweigh what some believe to be serious human and environmental concerns of this playing surface.  The Albemarle County School Board discussed synthetic turf fields at its August 9, 2007, September 27, 2007 and April 17, 2008 meetings.  The minutes of those meetings are included as “Attachment A” to this report.  At the August 9 and September 27 School Board meetings discussion related to safety and environmental concerns was held.  The school staff report (Attachment B) included safety considerations related to injuries and temperature differences between the synthetic and natural surfaces and environmental concerns related to water runoff and global warming.  Some of the concerns which have been expressed, but have been subject to only minimal discussion by the School Board at its meetings, include high lead levels found in some synthetic turf products and the potential effects of exposure to crumb rubber infill material.  In April 2008, two fields in New Jersey were closed after state health officials detected unexpected high levels of lead in two older nylon fiber fields prompting an investigation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”).  On July 30, 2008, the CPSC announced that synthetic turf fields are safe to install and play on for children and people of all ages.  Attached is an update issued in August by the New Jersey Department of Health after the CPSC investigation (Attachment C).

 

The school division has agreed on a vendor and product for the synthetic turf surface.  Representatives of the school division and the vendor will be available at the December 3, 2008 meeting to discuss health and safety concerns regarding the recommended product. 

 

If the Board supports County participation in this project, a memorandum of understanding ensuring ample community recreation use of the synthetic fields will be developed between the County Executive and the School Superintendent.  Release of County funds for this project will be contingent upon the execution of this memorandum of understanding.

 

BUDGET IMPACT:

The County share of funding for this project totals $225,000 and is currently appropriated in the Parks and Recreation Capital Improvements Plan budget under project code 1-9010-71000-950044 Athletic Field Study/Development.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Staff recommends approval of County funding in the amount of $225,000 for the synthetic turf project contingent upon the execution of a memorandum of understanding between the School Superintendent and the County Executive.

 

ATTACHMENTS

A – School Board Minutes

B – School Staff Report

C – New Jersey Department of Health Update

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