By Jessica Glenza, Register Citizen
TORRINGTON >> A $2.7 million state grant to rebuild Torrington High School’s football field and track was accepted by the city council and a building committee formed to start construction planning.
“We are on a mission to make sure this is done as soon as possible,” said state Rep. Michelle Cook, D-65, who wrote the grant using materials from years of work compiled by a “Turf Committee.”
The city’s grant liaison Tim Waldron says he expects a “smooth ride,” in the upcoming construction planning phases, which will be helmed by a city council-appointed building committee.
Most members of the building committee are also members of the turf committee, an unofficial committee formed in 2007 in an attempt to finance new athletic facilities through the city. When a bonding proposal failed in 2010. Ed Arum, a leading member of the turf committee, said most work stopped until Cook obtained a grant from the Connecticut Bonding Commission.
Before anything can be accomplished, an agreement must be signed between the city and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which administers the grant from the Connecticut Bonding Commission. Then, the agreement must be approved by the Attorney General’s office.
The turf committee used a feasibility study paid for by the school district to complete preliminary plans for the fields, including drawings.
The city council decided who would be on the building committee and who would be a voting member. Turf committee members make up five of the 14-member board. A board of education member and city council member will be appointed after the November election. Non-voting members include Cook, Director of Secondary Education Eric Baim, City Comptroller Alice Proulx, track coach Mike Tyler and Mike Fritch Sr.
After the agreement between the city and the DEEP is signed and approved, the building committee can begin seeking requests for proposals (it must receive at least three) to survey the land and hire a building consultant. Currently, only general mock-ups exist, not a construction plan.
Plans are to renovate the football field, track, soccer field, grand stands and upgrade lighting. Arum is hoping that through competitive bidding there will be enough money to possibly renovate a second soccer field, baseball field or softball field.
Although the plans appear to be moving forward, board of education Chairman Ken Traub said he’s not happy with the input Torrington schools will have in the process.
“The gentleman that is essentially the principal of the two schools has no say in what is basically the backyard of those two schools,” said Traub.
Baim is a part of the new building committee, but is a non-voting member. A to-be-appointed board of education member will have voting privileges.
Traub called the process “politically motivated,” and asked where money for the eventual replacement of the field’s carpet would come from.
“Who is setting up the replacement fund? Because I will not support any cuts in staff for the replacement of this in eight to 10 years,” said Traub.
He claims the field could cost as much as $1 million, and Arum says as little as $300,000. A call made to the American Sports Builders Association to seek advice on lifetime costs of turf fields was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Traub argues that because the board of education is normally responsible for maintenance of district facilities, this project should be no different. For example, roof repair at Forbes Elementary is being overseen and financed through the board of education’s budget.
However, all buildings are owned by the city of Torrington and the board of education itself is financed through the city. The board of education’s budget is approved each year by the board of finance, but the board of finance doesn’t have line item control over the board of education’s budget.
“It’s going to be a great facility for the city of Torrington and for the high school,” said Arum, excitedly. “We’re going to make it happen.”
Reach Jessica Glenza at 860-489-3121 ext. 324.