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Talkin' turf

May 27, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - North Hagerstown High School's new stadium will include a synthetic-turf field, the Washington County Board of Education decided Friday, approving a $461,000 contract contingent on financing.

The budget for a field with natural grass had been $227,000, Chris South, the board's director of budget and finance, said at Friday's board meeting.

However, last week, a Hagerstown scrap metal processing business offered $250,000 more if the field would be synthetic turf, which supporters say is safe, durable and easy to maintain.

A private committee has been raising money to build a stadium and track at North High by this fall. The latest cost estimate is $3.8 million. Nearly two-thirds of the money so far is from private donations.

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The school board voted 6-1 to award the $461,344 contract to Specialty Surfaces Inc. of Wayne, Pa. - which submitted the lowest of four acceptable bids - as long as there is financing, particularly for Conservit's $250,000 contribution.

Board member Jacqueline B. Fischer, who took part in the discussion from home through a conference call, cast the only vote against the motion. She said she was concerned the motion wasn't specific enough to safeguard against legal or financial problems.

During Tuesday's Hagerstown City Council meeting, Councilman Lewis C. Metzner asked if other council members would support having the city finance the $250,000.

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire and Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean indicated that they supported the idea.

The matter will be on the council's June 6 agenda, Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II wrote in a letter to the school board, the Washington County Commissioners and the stadium committee.

"This financing will be in the form of a loan agreement," the letter says.

In an interview Wednesday, Metzner said the $250,000 donation would be over a 10-year period, and the financing would come at no cost to city taxpayers.

Conservit's donation would give it naming rights for the field, but not the stadium, which is named after Mike Callas.

Metzner - whose brother, Jack, is the president and chief executive officer of Conservit - said his financing proposal does not violate the city's ethics code because "there's no financial enrichment coming to the company."

Washington County is financing much of the Mike Callas Stadium project. The county is contributing $117,000 that it is incurring as a result.

Almost $1.6 million of the money for the stadium and track is coming from government sources.

The breakdown is $750,000 in Maryland Program Open Space money allocated by Washington County, $400,000 from state bonds bills, $200,000 from the school board, $100,000 from the City of Hagerstown and $117,000 that Washington County is incurring by financing most of the expenses.

Still, committee members said the extent of private fundraising for a public stadium is unprecedented.

A memo on the synthetic turf contract says bids were opened May 8.

One bid was considered "nonresponsive" because it did not respond to all of the required items outlined in the request for proposal.

The three other bids and bidders were $466,770 by Sportexe Inc. of Calhoun, Ga.; $503,457.70 by General Sports Turf of Rochester, Mich.; and $528,900 by A-Turf Inc. of Lancaster, Pa.

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