Trustees rescind turf field support

School board vows to seek ways to improve fields with natural methods

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Plastic will no longer be an option for the Gulf Islands Secondary School soccer field, after school board trustees voted to rescind their June motion supporting the construction of an artificial turf field at the school.

However, trustees did recognize the need to ensure that field’s playability in the future, and will be looking into ways to improve it without going to an artificial surface.

A staff report submitted last week on the financial impact of the synthetic field showed that the district would still be required to commit $30,000 per year for the field, which would go into repair and maintenance as well as a sinking fund for replacement costs. The soccer association would commit to an equal share of the replacement costs. The final third of the costs would be fundraised by both the district and the soccer association. The report recommended that the district not proceed with the project, since it was a significant long-term financial commitment in a time where the district is in funding protection with the Ministry of Education.

“Once we’ve committed, we are no longer able to back out of the annual commitment or the long-term commitment for replacement,” said secretary treasurer Jesse Guy during last week’s board meeting. “That does put the district in an unfunded liability while we are in a time of fiscal restraint.”

The decision came after months of discussion and feedback from the community, and debate amongst the trustees at both board and committee meetings.

“This has been a huge topic of conversation at our tables,” said Galiano Island trustee Shelley Lawson. “This has been something that we’ve all taken home and done our suggested readings on and I think at one point or another we’ve all swung through the options and come down on different sides of it.”

Though use of plastic has been taken off the table for the school board’s fields, they are open to coordinating with the soccer association or other groups to find a way to improve the playing surface while staying within a natural medium. Another stipulation about staying cost-neutral for the district was added as a necessary requirement to moving forward.

For more on this story, see the Dec. 18, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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