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Delaware Academy Receives Turf Field Donation

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 2/9/24 | 2/9/24

Plans for Athletic Capital Project Continue, April Vote

By Mary A. Crisafulli

DELHI - Delaware Academy Central School District Board of Education voted to accept a donation from Clark Companies for labor and materials associated with installation, maintenance, and end-of-life recycling of a synthetic turf on the Dave Kelly Field. The donation was accepted with President Tammy Neumann, and board members Seth Haight, Lauren Raba, Kimberly Shephard, and Ro Avila in favor and board members Sean Leddy and Lucy Kelly against.

The contribution is contingent on the approval of a capital project which includes the resurfacing of the track which is located on the perimeter of the Dave Kelly Field.

Plans for the capital project were presented in 2022 which included building and site improvements, development of an agriculture and technology innovation lab, updates to the music and performing arts equipment and auditorium, as well as physical education and athletic field improvements. Due to public concern regarding plans for the artificial turf field, the board opted to separate the capital project into two propositions for the 2023 vote. The physical education and athletic field improvements portion of the project was voted down with 583 no votes and 567 yes votes. The proposition failed by a measly 16 votes. 

It was proposed that the Dave Kelly football field's natural turf be replaced with artificial and become a soccer/football field and LED lighting would be installed. The track surrounding the field would be resurfaced as well. The Dave Kelly field was installed by Clark Companies roughly 25 years ago.

Voters will again see a proposition regarding physical education and athletic field updates on a ballot in April, however this round will exclude the artificial turf work. The board will move forward with plans to install the turf as long as voters approve the resurfacing of the track. Superintendent Kelly Zimmerman said the equipment needed to install the artificial turf would damage the track and it will require replacement. While the project looks roughly the same as previously proposed, the board is still required to hold public forums and informational sessions regarding the project. The board plans to hold the forums in an open house format, said Zimmerman. The forum will include several tables each with information on individual aspects of the project and school officials to answer questions. Zimmerman hopes the forum allows for efficiency and provides more space for specific questions.

Kelly said that while there is a portion of the population that may be happy with the generosity of the donation, another portion was in disfavor of the project because of possible long-term ramifications and its environmental impact. "I voted no because I felt that segment (of the population) had to be hurd," she said. "But I do trust the process."

Raba said the student input on the project got lost during previous public forums. There is huge support from the student body to have a turf field, she explained. "This is an amazing opportunity to have here for our students," said Raba, "My main reason to support it is I believe it will equalize the playing field for our athletes." She continued to add that the artificial turf will allow for maximum playing ability, which is of utmost importance. "They should be out there every day," Raba said.

Haight argued that after conducting diligence with the project, it appears to be the direction of the industry to accept artificial turf as a reasonable and viable resource. "Utilization is huge here," he said, "Our footprint has expanded dramatically over the years with all the additional teams we have added." The artificial turf will be the best and maximum utilization for players. He added that students' playoff games and many away games are already played on turf fields. "If we are not comfortable using ourselves how can we have away games," he asked redundantly. The financials make it even more desirable since there will be zero associated costs to the school or taxpayers. He concluded, "It's really about our students and I feel an overwhelming amount of support from our students."

Shepard said she wanted to make sure the voters had the final say, and she believes they will with the vote in April.

Avila accepted the funding as it addressed her three largest concerns with the artificial turf field which included installation, maintenance, and removal. 

During public comment, Matthew Krzyston said he supported the board's decision to accept the donation. "I think it's going to change the usefulness of a big piece of our property out there and it's going to make school a lot more fun," he said. 

Resident Dominic Morales spoke against the artificial turf. He said while the contribution by Clark Companies is very generous he felt the public concern regarding artificial turf was related more to a philosophical issue of a sustainable future and safety rather than financial costs. "I'm still not for it," he said, "Whatever the vote is I wish everyone the best of luck, in 10 to 15 years I won't be here to see what the results are."

The next regular board of education meeting and budget workshop is Monday, Feb. 26 at 5 p.m.


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