The Mineola school district is ready to begin the next phase in its plan to build a cafeteria and turf field at the Hampton Street School, after an architect showcased his preliminary plans for the project.
The designs, which were presented at the district’s Board of Education meeting Thursday, allow Mineola to submit the proposal to the state for funding and approval, a process that typically takes about 25 weeks, school board President Artie Barnett said.
At this point, Barnett said, both projects are a “forgone” conclusion.
The proposal includes plans to build a new cafeteria at the elementary school, with the possibility to convert current one into classroom space, Mineola Superintendent Michael Nagler said.
Nagler said the proposal needed to include construction on the building to get state aid for the turf field.
“When we started looking at the building, we had a couple choices to add a classroom or two,” Nagler said. “Then we looked at the cafeteria, which is not in such great shape.”
Mineola has contemplated the construction of a turf athletic field for about two years, taking a deliberate approach to avoid missteps, Barnett said.
“We try to do these things slowly and methodically so that we get it right, so we don’t have to do these things all over again,” he said.
Nagler said the district has about $3 million in its capital reserve earmarked for the project and that if approved, the state would reimburse the district about 14 percent of the construction’s total cost over a period of 10 years
The district’s pay-as-you-go policy in recent years allows it to move forward without borrowing or issuing bonds, a sharp contrast from Mineola’s past approach, Barnett said.
“As we see a project that needs to be done, we are saving and funding our capital reserve and paying for the project as you can afford it,” he said. “Before, it was, ‘eh, we can borrow.’”
The field, which would also be at the Hampton Street School, would have a four-lane track rather than a six-lane track in the initial plans to accommodate space concerns, Barnett said.
Football, track and lacrosse would likely all be played on the turf field, and soccer is also a possibility, he said.
The project’s primary sticking point at the moment is selecting an infill, the material immediately beneath the turf that acts as an artificial dirt, according to Barnett.
The most common infill, crumb rubber, which is made from old tires, has been linked to health problems. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) recently called on the Environmental Protection Agency to study the material’s use on playgrounds.
But, Barnett said, evidence about crumb rubber’s safety remains inconclusive, and the district intends to take any new information into consideration.
The project’s estimated cost is also still up in the air, he said, and will be easier to calculate as plans solidify.
“Nothing’s been locked down,” he added.
The turf athletic field would require a steep initial investment, Barnett said, but long-term the cost could be mitigated somewhat by reduced maintenance expenses, though not necessarily enough to offset it entirely.
“Tying to maintain a natural grass field is a big expense in itself; it’s an annual cost that adds up year after year after year,” he said. “I’m not going to tell you we’re going to save money, and I’m not going to say we’re going to spend more.”
The district chose the architect, Michael Mark, based on his work on similar projects in the area, including for Garden City, according to Barnett, who said other districts spoke highly of his work.
“He comes with pretty good credentials,” he said.
Barnett said that between the six-month turnaround time from the state, an extended bidding process and the construction itself, the completion of the projects remains a long way off.
“The project is in its infancy,” he said.