Four ballfields used by both a Northampton County school district and community will soon be looking a lot greener.
The Wilson Area School Board voted 6-2 Monday night to spend as much as $60,624 on renovating the varsity baseball, field hockey, soccer and softball fields on the east side of the Intermediate School at 2400 Firmstone St. and drilling a 400- to 500-foot well to water them.
"We have not had water on the Intermediate School fields since at least as long as I've been here, and probably much longer," said Schools Supt. Doug Wagner, who has been on the job since 2002. "This has led to less than favorable conditions at times. ... And those fields are used by the community as well as the district."
School board members Scott Wamsley and Charles Marsteller voted no on the project.
Marsteller said before the vote he would be happy to see the work done, but he questioned spending the money when the district is confronting other financial challenges.
He was alluding, in part, to what business manager Patricia Denicola told the board at the beginning of the meeting.
Denicola said that in preparing the 2014-15 budget, the board could be facing cuts in basic education funding from the state, increased health-care and pension costs, and loss of revenue from tax assessment appeals, which she said have drained the district of $194,000 since the 2011-12 school year.
Marsteller underscored Denicola's last point by pointing to an agenda item asking for board approval of a settlement decreasing the assessed value of a property owned by Island Park Development by more than $1 million, from $1,976,000 to $940,800, and refunding $104,004 for the 2011 and 2012 tax years.
The board decided not to take any action on the settlement Monday night.
While Marsteller said he "would like to see this [project] done," he said he would "put it way down the list of priorities."
Ken Case, building and grounds coordinator for the district, explained the specifics of the project.
He said Tomlinsin Bomberger would be paid $7,812 for the softball field renovation, which includes 40 tons of topsoil for the outfield and 24 tons for the infield; seeding and re-edging the field; realigning the base paths and home plate, and fixing a depression near the third base line.
T.M. Mayer would drill a 400-foot well for $19,000; Watson would provide equipment to water the fields for $15,500, and $6,500 will be spent on underground piping and power costs, Case said.
If Mayer does not hit water by 400 feet, another $4,000 will be spent to drill down an extra 100 feet, Case added.
Responding to questions from board members about the likelihood of finding water, Case related a conversation he had with a well driller. "He told me that on this side of the Lehigh [River] there's a lot of limestone, so there's a good chance of finding water."
Case said the well would be located behind the visitors dugout, in the vicinity of where a power source was available to pump the well water.
The well drilling could begin in two to three weeks, Case said, and the work on the softball field should be completed sometime in autumn, in time for the fall grass-growing season.