Mayor Proposes $2.5 Mil Replacement of High School Athletic Facilities
The regional organization in charge of accreditation has determined the existing track is "unsafe and unusable."
Attleboro High School's track and field facility is in desperate need of repair to reach even the basic level of usability. Mayor Kevin Dumas announced in a memo to city and school officials on Friday a $2.5 million plan to replace the facility as well as other improvements, including replacing the grass football field with a synthetic surface that could also be used for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey.
The mayor's plan is to borrow money and pay for the project over 15 years at a cost of $262,000 per year to cover principal and interest. He wrote in the memo that the project would not affect current existing city services or necessitate a Proposition 2 1/2 override.
"The need for the replacement of the track and field facility is undeniable," Dumas wrote. "Despite our repeated attempts to maintain and repair the track, the reality is that the track has become irreparable. The existing track has been unusable for years. In fact, the Attleboro High School track team has been unable to host a home track meet since 2008."
[The memo is attached to this article.]
The existing track is so unsafe that signs are posted notifying people to use the facility at their own risk. Dumas wrote that the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which is in charge of accreditation, recently requested that the School Department "provide an update on the district's work and findings to identify funding to address the unsafe and unusable condition of the track facility."
Other features of Dumas' proposal include new bleachers, a new press box and fencing. The proposal also calls for a new concession stand and bathroom that would covered through fundraising efforts by high school Principal Bill Runey, Athletic Director Mark Houle and Recreation Director Dennis Walsh.
Replacing the football field with a synthetic surface has many advantages, Dumas wrote.
"Annual maintenance costs are drastically reduced and synthetic turf is more durable than grass," Dumas wrote. "More games and practices can be played on the new artificial turf. This alone will allow other fields to be taken off-line and revived."
The project has the enthusiastic support of at least one city councilor. Jeremy Denlea wrote in an email to Patch that it is evidence the community takes pride in its school system.
"This proposed new facility is a welcome solution to a very serious problem," Denlea wrote. "The AHS track used to host different local and regional meets as well as the local Special Olympics; all of these events have since been moved due to safety concerns. I want to see Attleboro High School's athletics facilities become the powerhouse they once were."
Replacement of the track has been on many people's watch list for some time. It is listed as "urgent" on the city's most recent Capital Improvement Plan and the School Committee recently allocated $13,530 to do an engineering feasibility study.
Covering the entire cost of the project with private funds and grants would be difficult because those options are "limited and extremely competitive," Dumas wrote.
He wrote, "So, and although we will continue to seek available grants and private funding wherever possible, this part of our journey towards restoring Attleboro's flagship school into one of the top high schools in the Commonwealth is entirely up to us."