Turf proposal goes before St. James School Board

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2012

By David Vitrano


NEW ORLEANS – The first meeting of the St. James Parish School Board for 2012 took place in an unfamiliar environment, as the board was having its retreat in New Orleans this week, but business carried on as usual.

Following last weeks’ Building Committee meeting, during which committee members heard about the merits of artificial turf from Lutcher High School Athletic Director Tim Detillier, the entire board got to hear from an expert in the field.

Danny Hebert with Luling-based Civil and Environmental Consulting Engineers spoke about the relative merits of the synthetic surface and his experience with it.

He said that although the surface was linked to certain kinds of injuries in its earliest days, many advancements have been made in that time.

He also said the industry leader by far is the company FieldTurf, but recognized the limitation of dealing with a public body.

“Being that you are a public body,” he said, “you cannot just sole source FieldTurf.”

He did say, however, that when artificial turf projects go out for bid, the product from other companies must be supplemented to bring it to the same per-square-inch weight level. He said this not only brings the products to a relatively similar place quality-wise, but it also evens out the pricing game.

He also reiterated a point made by Detillier last week.

“Compared to a grass field, it really is a minimal care cost,” said Hebert.

He added, however, that care of the artificial surface is still a high priority.

“The worst thing you could do is not groom the field,” he said.

Grooming, however, consists of little more than driving a riding lawnmower-type apparatus over the field to fluff the surface.

He also estimated that in a southern climate, the surface could last for about 12 years before parts of it would have to be refurbished.

Lutcher High School, however, will have to make sure its drainage issues are solved before installing the field because improper drainage could potentially void the warranty. The drainage issue would be included in any plans the company draws up, he said.

Civil and Environmental Consulting Engineers were recently involved in the installation of turf at fields in Jefferson and St. Charles parishes. The projects at Hahnville and Destrehan high schools ran between $1.1 million and $1.3 million.

Ultimately, the board agreed with the Building Committee’s recommendation to allow architect Perry Segura to begin compiling information regarding the possible installation of artificial turf at both Lutcher and St. James high schools.

Ultimately cost will be the determining factor over whether the projects get the green light or not.

In other action, the board chose to go with the same leadership it had in 2011. Charles Nailor and George Nassar will continue to serve as the board’s president and vice president, respectively.

The board also approved a list of revised policies.

“The majority of these policies are revisions because of state legislative acts,” said Director of Human Resources Carol Webre.

Webre also brought before the board an item concerning two additional professional development days on May 29 and 30. The item was approved unanimously.

Earlier in the day, the board discussed the proposed Gramercy Elementary Magnet Program, which actually went up for approval at the last meeting of 2011 but was placed on the retreat agenda because of objections from board member Patricia Schexnayder, who thought the plan showed favoritism toward residents of the east bank. The board approved the plan, although Schexnayder still voted against the measure.