PORTSMOUTH — Residents living near the high school athletic fields can expect things to get somewhat dusty and noisy during initial work on the “T3 Project,” which is expected to begin during school vacation week next month.
Several members of the School Committee met with about 10 abutters in an informal gathering at the high school Tuesday night to outline plans for the project and to respond to any concerns they had about what to expect during construction.
The upgrades include improvements to the football field (including an artificial turf cover), track and tennis courts, for which the district has set aside $2.5 million, including $1.8 million from its fund surplus. More than $500,000 in private donations will be used toward a fund for ongoing maintenance as well as “extras” to enhance the facilities.
On Wednesday night, March 18, the committee is expected to award the T3 Project contract to Green Acres Landscaping & Construction Co., Inc. of Lakeville, Mass, which was the low bidder at about $2.3 million.
(Also at that meeting, the committee is expected to approve a $37,951,969 school budget for fiscal year 2015, which represents a 2.4 percent increase over the current spending plan. The proposed budget includes the elimination of 12 staff positions in order to save about $652,000. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the high school library.)
School Committee Chairman David Croston started Tuesday’s meeting by saying the athletic field upgrades are sorely needed, despite the town’s fiscal challenges. “It’s long in coming,” he said. “We really can’t afford it, but the reality is that field is virtually unplayable. It’s dangerous. The track is horrendous and the tennis courts are unplayable.”
The project is similar to one a few years ago that resulted in the new gym. “But it will have a dust impact and a noise impact, which we didn’t have with the new gym. But you shouldn’t get inundated,” Mr. Croston said.
He assured abutters that a clerk of the works will be stationed onsite to oversee the project, and that they should contact the district if they see any problems during construction.
“If anything’s out of whack, we want to know,” said Mr. Croston.
The job has a 12-week schedule and must be completed by Aug. 15. There will be two access points for construction trucks: along the football practice field adjacent to the school parking lot, and through a new entry point off East Dexter Street onto the south end of the complex. (The Fire Department had requested the new access point, saying the entrance on the other site of the field was too steep.)
The most intense period of work will be from the third week of April to the end of June, Mr. Croston said. Excavation work on the football field will take about two weeks, and this is when neighbors will experience the most dust, he said. Then cement will come in so a border can be built — a job expected to last another three to four weeks.
“That’s where the bulk of the important work is,” Mr. Croston said.
Abutters can expect most of the work to take place from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the upgrades to the field and track should take about six weeks. Work on the football field will require backhoes only. “We’re not expecting to hit (rock) there,” said Mr. Croston.
Concerns over drainage
One abutter said she was concerned about drainage after the project was finished, but Mr. Croston said the R.I. Department of Environmental Management is requiring the district to build a large retention basin that will prevent water from running off onto surrounding neighborhoods.
“In essence, we could actually play a game in a hurricane,” he said.
After the bulk of the work on the new turf field and track is completed, the job moves to the tennis courts, which Mr. Croston said “are being completely destroyed and rebuilt” starting in June. The arborvitae surrounding the outside of the courts will be taken down, as the plants are “spitting” onto the courts, he said.
The adjacent basketball courts will be used as a staging area in June and July, so their use may also be limited during that time, he said.
The committee also outlined several other improvements planned for the fields. After an abutter complained about loud play-by-play announcing over the loudspeakers at football games, Mr. Croston said the district has a pledge for wireless speakers that could be located in strategic locations to minimize unwanted sounds heard by neighbors.
He also said improvements will be made to the football field’s main entrance facing Memorial Drive, including the addition of concrete steps and an ornamental sitting wall.
“When it’s finished it’s going to be a lot more welcoming,” he said.