2017-06-15 / Front Page

Outcry not enough to sway Glen Lake turf vote

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

The Glen Lake football team will have new turf to defend when Traverse City St. Francis comes to town Sept. 1.

About 40 community members were on hand Monday as the Glen Lake Board of Education voted to enter a contract with AstroTurf for the installation of a synthetic turf surface, which is expected to cost the district’s general fund at least $839,488.

“The real distinguishing factor for our board was usability,” said Superintendent Sander Scott. “We have physical education classes and a lot of extracurricular opportunities for kids. What it came down to is that synthetic turf gave kids the most opportunity to be outside and active on the field.”

Emotions ran high inside the media center as six of 11 public commenters made last-ditch efforts to dissuade board members away from turf.

Proponents of a grass surface made arguments based on alternative ways to spend the money, potential health risks of an artificial turf surface, the future of Federal Impact Aid and more.

Dylan Vogelsong, who said his grandfather was the first football coach at Glen Lake, suggested the money ought to be put toward academics.

“I know you’re doing your best here, but I think you’re making a big mistake,” Vogelsong said. “It seems like, from the first time I started hearing about this turf thing, there was a desire to get a turf field and you were looking for reasons to back that up.”

School-of-choice parent Kayla Eaton echoed a similar sentiment, saying the money should be elsewhere, perhaps at the elementary level.

Eaton and others also argued the studies of synthetic turf are inconclusive and subsequently suspect.

Lake Ann resident John Scott, a school-of-choice parent of three Glen Lake students, presented the only public comment in favor of the turf project.

“They’re doing the research,” he said in defense of the board. “There’s nothing in this for them. As far as I know, none of them are related to anybody who owns an artificial turf company. This community, this school has the money to do basically everything it wants to. Yes, that may change down the line, but for the time being, we’ve got it. There isn’t a millage, so as far as taxpayers getting upset about it—they aren’t asking for mills for this.”

Two other attendees presented budget based observations and advised the board to proceed with caution.

Mary Frixen prefaced her comments by pointing out that School Board President Fran Seymour plans to attend the upcoming Federal Lands Impacted Schools Association 2017 Summer Meeting in Baltimore, Md.

“I would just say that before we spend a great deal of money on either turf or artificial turf, that we make sure that Washington’s not going to yank the impact aid rug out from under our feet,” Frixen said. “I hope you get a straight scoop at that conference. Who knows. You may get alternate facts. You may get fake news. You may even get tweeted. I don’t know. ... At any rate, let’s not spend money we may not have two or three years down the road. Thank you very much, and good luck.”

The arguments ultimately fell on deaf ears, however, as only Lisa Siddall voted against the turf project.

Siddall referenced a recent student survey carried out by Athletic Director Jennifer Johnston that showed 105 students are interested in choir, band, auditioned ensemble or tennis.

“We’re supposed to be getting them a new sound system for the auditeria, and we’re the only school in the county without an auditorium,” Siddall said. “I don’t see that on the agenda at all. Our tennis team is growing by leaps and bounds, and we don’t have tennis courts, and yet we’re arguing about an artificial turf field. It sounds like it’s a foregone conclusion, the voting, but I want to say that I would like us to focus on some other things besides these athletics. I’m disappointed that there isn’t more interest in music and other sports that are better lifelong-learning sports and lifetime sports.”

Ross Hazelton said the turf project and future projects benefiting those students aren’t mutually exclusive. Hazelton used the successful media center project, which was approved but delayed four years due to “analysis paralysis,” as a reason to act.

“We can do it all,” he said. “People get so narrow-minded in thinking it’s all about the football field. We’ve been talking about this for years and years and years. A fine arts center would be great. I would vote for that, too.”

Two other board members argued the turf is best for all students since only football players would be given access to a grass football field.

Another argument brought forth by Patrick Middleton appealed to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, which requires all football semifinal sites to have turf surfaces.

“The interesting thing to me was there was a lot of interesting discussion and good conversation that was done on a respectful level,” Seymour said. “That was encouraging. In the political climate we see on TV nowadays, the school board is the purest form of politics. We’re there for one purpose and that is to do what’s best for the kids.”

The turf should be installed by mid-to-late August, Seymour said.

Further details pertaining to the project — such as maintenance arrangements and infill material — will be discussed at a meeting today at 6 p.m.

Return to top