FREEPORT — The artificial turf project at Freeport High School may cost at least $1.4 million more than expected.
Fred Palmer, who co-founded the Tri-Town Track and Field Committee last year, said the project may cost $4.6 million, up nearly 44 percent from the original estimate of $3.2 million.
Palmer on Aug. 24 reported the updated cost projection to the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors, cautioning that $4.6 million is only an estimate and is “nowhere near final.”
The track and field committee has 15-20 volunteers who have been working on a capital campaign to replace the high school’s grass athletic fields with artificial turf. The project also includes building an eight-lane running track.
The increase in the cost of the project is due to “additional earth work” that needs to be done so the field can be leveled, Palmer said. The field has a 9-foot pitch, he said, and the committee has learned that the low end of the field needs to come up, which costs more than bringing the higher end down.
Lowering the higher end isn’t an option, Palmer said, because then water wouldn’t be able to run off the field as easily.
The RSU 5 board gave Palmer and the committee until Sept. 14 to submit a firmer estimate for the project. Over the new few weeks, Palmer said the committee’s fundraising committee will be meeting with RSU 5 administrators and board members to go over details.
The track and field committee has raised almost $2 million for the project so far, including a $1 million pledge in January from Nike. The amount raised also includes $100,000 from the town, and $600,000 the committee hopes to leverage from RSU 5.
The $600,000 would come from a $14.6 million bond approved by voters in November 2013 to renovate the high school. The money was intended to be spent on repairing the grass fields, which means the turf field project will have to be approved by a voter referendum, since it wasn’t in the original plan.
The board on Aug. 24 decided to push back the referendum for the project to January, instead of holding it on Nov. 8 as originally planned, so the committee can have more time to raise money.
Palmer said he’s not yet sure how the committee plans to raise additional funds.
“I expect there’ll be a shortfall, but we’re not sure how much,” he said.
Despite the referendum being pushed back, Palmer said the project schedule remains the same. He said school officials hope construction of the track and field can start next spring and be completed by fall 2017.