By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD —On time and under budget. These are the five little words everyone loves to hear with regard to any construction project. But they are particularly welcome in reference to a multi-million dollar construction project funded by the town’s taxpayers.
And these are precisely the words Fields Committee Chairman Arthur Bourque used in his update to the selectmen Monday night on the $5.76M fields overhaul at Lynnfield High School.
The first bulldozer broke ground at the high school to begin this transformation exactly one year ago this past Saturday, Bourque said. Provided the weather holds this week, the contractor will be paving the remaining walkways surrounding the new turf baseball and softball fields mid-week and completing both landscaping and hydroseeding on Friday, he said.
“We expect to be through the punch list by the end of this week. This project will be complete on Friday of this week,” Bourque said. The only caveat would be if rain delays the hydroseeding it would be done early next week.
The town also has a one year guarantee on all landscaping, including grass. They continue to monitor the shrubbery and trees installed last October and anything planted this week would be guaranteed through next May, he said. Irrigation was not included in this project and it is something the town may want to discuss for the future.
In spite of the numerous “construction challenges” encountered in the field that necessitated a variety of change-orders plus the complications created by a wet fall and an extraordinarily snowy winter, the promise to deliver five new fields plus the amenities building within one year held up, Bourque said.
The winter weather delayed both the spring sports seasons and the ability of the contractor to get back on site prior to mid-April. In spite of this fact, Bourque said these fields were ready for use prior to other fields within the Cape Ann League. As a result some games originally scheduled as away for the Pioneers were played at home early in the season.
$37K remains in account
Of the $5,767,113 appropriated by Town Meeting, Bourque said a positive balance of $37,761 remains in the account and he is confident that this amount will be sufficient to cover any final punch list items encountered before turning over the facility to the town.
Bourque submitted a comprehensive six-page financial statement detailing every expense by category throughout the past year, including change orders, to back up this statement.
The numbers boil down to positive balances of $85,515.17 in the field construction account and $28,061.52 in the amenities building account and negative balances of $72,518.99 in the engineering and testing account and $3,296.54 in the project management account for a net available balance of $37,761.16.
Bourque also reported that Gale Associates, which served as the town’s construction management consultant, encountered “no items of significance” during their inspection of the site last week. They are currently looking to resolve some “tracking issues” with some gates due to the “sophisticated mechanisms” involved, he said. All other issues raised on the punch list on the walk-through last November have been resolved, he said, adding that anyone who sees an issue should not hesitate to contact him, the Athletic Director or the DPW.
Construction challenges included:
•$84,000 change order due to Town Meeting’s decision to use turf instead of sod on the baseball and softball fields. A problem with the height of the existing baseball dugouts and the level of the turf was discovered. The old dugouts were originally slated to remain in place.
•$100,000 cost to replace collapsed school drainage pipes discovered under the fields during construction appropriated by October Town Meeting.
•$100,000 cost to upgrade Musco field lighting from 50kw to 100kw.
•$93,000 to deal with nickel contaminated soils discovered during construction. “All of the nickel soil was distributed on the property; it never left the property,” he said.
•No electrical conduit installed to power the scoreboard on the softball field (since rectified).
•No water at the baseball field to groom the pitcher’s mound (to be resolved by reactivating existing irrigation well that was left intact during construction. A change-order provided the piping from the contractor and LCWD assisted with all of the other related hookups).
•Change in fence heights from four feet to six feet for player and pedestrian safety where they abut pedestrian walking paths.
•Excess loam on site that could not be accommodated during construction. Negotiated change orders to sell the loam to the contractor, who then shipped it off-site, provided the town with a credit of $119,685, he said.
Bourque said a total of $141,235 in credit change orders “were negotiated with the contractor.”
Given the scope of the project, Bourque said, “We could never have anticipated all of the anomalies and idiosyncrasies that we would encounter. Unanticipated expenses such as the dugouts and nickel-laden soils put a tremendous burden on the project from day one.”
However, through “careful management,” he said they were able to complete the work on time with “sufficient funds in the project to complete all the work that remains.”
Bourque also addressed head-on negative rumors he has heard throughout the project. “There is a group in Lynnfield that has a lot of malicious intent and has taken a great deal of pleasure in trashing this project and trashing me personally, so I resent that to a great degree,” he said.
One rumor he dispelled was loam being sold for cash. “It just didn’t happen,” he said, noting that some people were observed following the trucks leaving Lynnfield in a “covert surveillance operation.” He referenced the $119,000 credit the town received from the contractor due to the need to have the excess loam shipped off site.
One truckload of soil dubbed “urban fill” had to be trucked off-site. It came from a 260-square-foot area where the amenities building now sits. Items found there included a car frame, glass and a still, Bourque said. This was a change-order handled by an environmental services company and the Fields Committee has possession of the certificates approving of this disposal.
Another rumor was that the fields were not delivered on time in November. Bourque said the playing fields promised were delivered in the fall “but required final grooming in dry weather…fields were approved for use in November last year and certified in April of this year.”
And other than overseeing the construction of the concession stand, Bourque said he is not involved in the operation of that facility. It is currently under the control of the Lynnfield Athletic Association (LAA) and how it is operated is up to the Board of Selectmen, School Committee and Recreation Commission.
He has recommended that some of the remaining funds be used to purchase heaters for the bathrooms in the amenities building because those rooms were quite chilly in November. Purchasing these through town vendors rather than the contractor will save the town several thousand dollars, he said.
“We have an extremely good relationship with White Construction,” Bourque said. Even so, whenever possible “we sourced a lot of stuff to find out where we could get it cheaper.”
Selectman Chris Barrett thanked Bourque for the number of volunteer hours he has devoted to this project, noting that the one item missing from the balance sheet was the value of Bourque’s time. “Today I saw some pictures online of you planting geraniums around the project,” he said.
“I think Lynnfield has to hear the savings to the community because of what you’ve done to manage this project by volunteering your time,” Barrett said, adding, that this resulted in “real savings” that can be put to use elsewhere at the complex, such as having the funds available to add heaters to the bathrooms.
Bourque termed it a labor of love. “I think what we’ve done as a town is spectacular. There is nothing that gives me greater pleasure than at 5 p.m. when the varsity teams roll off these fields and you see these kids run out there and start playing pick-up football, pick-up soccer and pick-up lacrosse.”
On a recent Saturday Bourque said he, Phil Crawford, Joe Maney and others were putting up a soccer net that the town had bought for the U-8 and U-12 teams when they met a father and two sons playing pick-up lacrosse. He recalled the father commented: “‘This is unbelievable what this town has done.’ It really is and the town deserves a tremendous amount of credit for making this happen.”
Selectman Tom Terranova agreed. “I would also like to thank you Arthur, for all your hard work. This is the second go-around for this field project and thank you for pushing it through. We need to thank the townspeople for coming out and voting for this project. They wanted it and they got it. They got a great field that should last many years.”
Newhall Park tennis court saved
At the request of Linda (Newhall) Newton, one of the two tennis courts will be preserved and restored as part of the upgrade to Newhall Park. When the fields project was passed funds were set aside to also upgrade the town’s smaller parks, which were overused for years due to the lack of adequate facilities to meet demand.
Both Newhall tennis courts, which are dilapidated, had been slated for removal to make room for 27 on-site parking spaces to accommodate mainly the Little League fields at the park, which abuts Suntaug Lake. This work is the subject of an upcoming public hearing before the Conservation Commission.
The park was named after Newton’s great-uncle and she questioned the wisdom of turning the site into a one-use facility when that was not its original intent. She added that it is not always possible for townspeople who play tennis to use the four courts at the Middle School, which do not have any fences between them. She said it is more pleasant to play tennis here, with the breeze coming off the lake, than at the one court at Glen Meadow, which abuts private property with shrubbery poking through the fence.
Newton had raised the issue of neglect of this park at October Town Meeting and attended a subsequent Fields Committee meeting where a 4-1 vote was taken to eliminate both tennis courts in favor of the extra parking.
Heather Keane, who lives in South Lynnfield, also spoke in favor of keeping one of the courts at Newhall. All three selectmen favored Newton’s suggestion and Bourque said the Fields Committee would abide by that decision.
Resident questions safety of turf
Resident Paul Briggs questioned whether the user fees to be collected from the fields would cover the estimated future replacement cost of the fields.
Briggs also raised the issue of the safety of artificial turf fields and the crumb rubber pellets used to lift the turf, noting that within the past week his young daughter’s friends were throwing around the rubber pellets and eating them. He said he has read all of the available studies and believes the chemicals used to make the playing surfaces cannot be good for children.
Bourque tried to assure Briggs that he has researched this as well and has an extensive white paper on the topic. Bourque believes the evidence does not support the claims that turf field materials are harmful.
“This is the same material that is on the soles of every pair of sneakers. If kids are throwing it around the coach should stop that behavior,” Bourque said. His own daughter played on artificial turf fields for years without problems, he said. Some of the controversy can also be attributed to differing interests, such as studies supported by those who benefit from the fertilizer business, he said.
As for the user fee money, the $1.3M to $1.4M to be collected before these fields need to be replaced in 12-15 years, at about $30 per player per season, was never intended to fully fund the replacement cost, Bourque said.
Crawford pointed out that other sources of income will be renting these fields to out of town camps and other entities at a higher fee level. Since this summer will be the first time they can rent the fields they don’t know right now what the potential income could be from such sources.