Mill Creek, schools may split cost of $2.4M artificial turf

MILL CREEK — The city and the Everett School District are considering splitting the cost of a $2.4 million synthetic-turf soccer field at Jackson High.

The project involves converting the school’s existing grass field to synthetic turf. It also includes a replacing the drainage system, building new bleachers for about 200 people and installing lights for night use.

The project would provide the city access to the all-season field for youth and adult sports.

The City Council has budgeted nearly $1.3 million for its share in the design and construction costs.

The city currently has $1.16 million from park impact fees that could be used for the project. That money comes from a one-time fee on new developments and can only be spent on parks.

“It’s not tax dollars,” Public Works Director Tom Gathmann said. “It’s fees paid by developers.”

Upgrading the field at the school would come at a fraction of the cost of building one elsewhere, he said.

The city estimated in 2008 that a new field adjacent to the sports park would cost $9.4 million. The sports park is not large enough for a full-size soccer field. It currently boasts the city’s only all-weather field, which is primarily used for baseball.

Mayor Pam Pruitt said there’s no doubt the city needs another field but the council should look into all options before deciding to invest.

“A million dollars is a lot of money for a city, especially of our size,” she said. “We have to get the best value.”

For more than 20 years, the district and Mill Creek have had a partnership that allows the city access to school facilities for recreation and events.

“The project is a good extension of that partnership,” Gathmann said. “I think it’s especially good from a taxpayer’s standpoint.”

He said the project offers the most economical way for the city to have access to another field. Other options would require money to be spent on infrastructure, such as restrooms, sidewalks and parking lots.

The two agencies have been discussing the joint-use proposal since early 2011. Since then, both have held public meetings to discuss the project.

The city and the district have agreed to split construction costs. That’s about $1.2 million each.

Mill Creek’s capital facilities plan for 2013 through 2019 identifies the project for construction this year.

The city contributed $35,000 to the field’s design, which was estimated at about $70,000. The district picked up the rest of the tab.

With the project’s design nearing completion, the district is preparing to advertise for construction bids.

The district and the city would also share maintenance and operations costs.

The city would have independent control and use of the field on weekends, school breaks and during off-hours for school sports.

If the agreement is terminated, it includes provisions for both parties to seek repayment on capital investments.

The deal also calls for a management committee to see to the field’s effective use.

Mill Creek estimates the field would generate $50,000 in annual revenue for the city.

Some soccer, lacrosse and frisbee organizations have expressed interest in renting the new field. Several representatives from sports groups attended the council meeting Tuesday to voice support of the partnership.

The City Council is expected to make a final decision on funding the project at its April 22 meeting.

Mayor Pruitt said she wants to gather more information before deciding.

“I’m not for it, I’m not against it,” Pruitt said. “It’s a lot of money so I just want to be certain.”

The school district’s funding may change depending on whether voters approve a construction bond on April 22. Voters turned down the district’s request for a bond in February.

Mary Waggoner, the district spokeswoman, said she doubts the project would move forward without the council’s support or the bond approval. The school board would have to make that decision.

If the project is given the green light, construction is expected to begin late this spring. Planners hope to open the new field in the fall.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

*Correction, April 14, 2014: This story originally named the wrong city in the headline.

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