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MX News Update 2024

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Boyertown votes 6-3 to hire an engineer for artificial turf fields

Current cost estimates for installing artificial turf in the football stadium are $3.2 million and $3.5 million for the multi-purpose soccer, lacrosse and hockey field. (Image via BASD-TV)

COLEBROOKDALE – The Boyertown School Board voted 6-3 Tuesday to hire an engineering firm to design two artificial turf fields for the high school campus.

Those who voted against were board members James Brophy, Ruth Dierolf and Christine Neiman. President Anthony Panarello, Vice President Jefferey Zawada, Marianne Scott, Wendy Kratz, Roger Updegrove and Brad Updegrove voted yes.

The board voted by the same margin in February to submit a request for proposals from architects and engineering firms to design the fields. Only two firms responded, and on Tuesday the board voted to hire Bethlehem-based D’Huy Engineering Inc. for a price not to exceed $277,000.

It is the same firm that recommended the termination of the original architect for the overlong and over-budget expansion of Boyertown High School due to $20 million in cost overruns.

The estimated cost for the artificial turf field project is approximately $7 million.

Chris Allen of D'Huy Engineering Inc.  said his company has only been commissioned to design two artificial turf fields.  (Image via Boyertown School District)
Chris Allen of D’Huy Engineering Inc. said his company has only been commissioned to design two artificial turf fields. (Image via Boyertown School District)

The company will design two fields, a multi-use field and the soccer field, D’Huy representative Chris Allen said.

“I recommend that you offer the project as one field, and the second as an alternative,” he told the board. That way, if the bids are too high, the district can only do one field but have designs for two.

Brophy was having none of it, arguing that the whole process is being rushed. On Tuesday, he said the meeting should be a committee of the whole, not a voting meeting. And yet a number of matters were voted on.

“What is the urgent need to vote on this tonight?” Brophy asked. “I understand that we are now voting on the budget, but why are we voting on D’Huy now? We should talk about it and not vote on it.”

“This is the way it was presented to me and I was fine with it,” Panarello responded.

Zawada told Brophy he could have asked to take the item off the agenda. “This simply feels like an attack on the president.”

“I’m asking a question,” Brophy replied. “Besides, it should be on the agenda. We are spending $277,000, this needs to be discussed publicly.”

Boyertown School Board President Anthony Panarello, center, listens to board member James Brophy's objections to Tuesday's vote on hiring an engineer to design two new artificial turf fields.  (Image via Boyertown Schools)
Boyertown School Board President Anthony Panarello, center, listens to board member James Brophy’s objections to Tuesday’s vote on hiring an engineer to design two new artificial turf fields. (Image via Boyertown Schools)

Brophy also argued that no scope has been established for this project and that hiring an engineering firm to design something that is not clearly defined is “putting the cart before the horse.” The original request came from the girls hockey team who wanted a field so they could play games at home. From there we went to a multi-purpose field, to additional lighting, to bathrooms, bleachers, the football field and road improvements.”

Brophy said: “They asked for a field and now we are going from that field to a sports complex. If you think you’re going to get all that for $7 million, you’re dreaming. You haven’t even defined the project yet, you’re heading for disaster.”

Zawada said hiring the engineer will allow the project to be bid on and all costs will be broken down so the board can decide which parts of the project it wants and how much it wants to spend.

“The scope of the proposal includes two areas,” Allen said.

“This in no way ties us to two areas of expertise,” says Business Manager Patricia Denicola.

Dierolf said she hadn’t even seen the request for proposal, to which Denicola replied, “It was publicly posted.”

“Well, I couldn’t find it,” Dierolf replied. “Besides, I can’t even believe we’re making any progress on this. Have you seen the condition of the tennis courts?’

Boyertown School Board Member Christine Neiman said the proposed final budget was adopted Tuesday evening
Boyertown School Board Member Christine Neiman said the proposed final budget passed Tuesday night “is not fiscally responsible.” (Image via Boyertown School District)

Neiman also said she believes the project should not be prioritized over other capital projects, such as those needed at Boyertown Elementary. She said the issue should be put to voters in a referendum in November. When there was no support for this, she made a motion to postpone the vote to a later meeting, but that motion received support only from herself, Dierolf and Brophy.

When she tried to make more comments, Panarello interrupted her.

“We are ready, we will proceed to the vote.” When Neiman objected, he interrupted her again. “You’re just trying to drag this out,” he said.