A group of residents recently appealed the decision to build a turf field at the new Wilmington High School, something Town Manager Michael Caira said could delay construction and increase project costs.
The Conservation Commission approved the turf installation as a part of the planning, but 10 residents believe the town did not take the proper measures to assure the surrounding area will not be impacted.
As a result, the residents appealed with the Department of Environmental Protection. Caira said if the DEP appeal is denied, there are multiple other steps the group can take if they desire.
“If their intent is to prolong this, it’s very likely that it will have an impact on our ability to meet our timeline goals and it will likely have an impact on the budget,” said Caira. “It’s pretty disconcerting, but they have the right to the appeal and it’s a process we have to go through.”
Construction of the field was slated to begin this spring, and the surface would then be ready for use this fall.
Resident George Lingenfelter is among the those appealing the turf field. Lingenfelter said he is concerned about the disturbance of the environment around the school property, and added that he doesn’t believed the town followed the proper procedure.
“It looked like (the town) wasn’t concerned if it met the regulations or not, or at least that was my impression,” said Lingenfelter. “If they want to shoehorn the project onto the property, they have to do what the regulations say. It’s not our fault that it may cost more.”
Caira said the turf was chosen because it will extend the life of the field and will help provide rest to other local fields because other groups in town will be able to utilize the artificial surface.
The Town Manager also said it is unfortunate that a small group of residents is delaying a project that was approved by a large margin and and .
“I think it’s disappointing that a few people can usurp the decision and determination of a large, large majority of the citizens in the town,” said Caira. “They want this project the way it has been proposed. To delay that is unfortunate and contrary to the stated intentions of the residents in town.”
Lingenfelter said he believes the town used scare tactics in the days leading up to the vote by sending home fliers with students urging their parents to vote for the school.
“They misrepresented the project,” said Lingenfelter. “They sent out misleading information that scared people. It probably still would have passed, but I do think they pushed it hard.”
The High School Building Committee is next scheduled to meet on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Caira said it’s extremely unlikely that the DEP will have its ruling on the appeal by then.
“It’s of great concern that the project was overwhelmingly supported, and now is being held up by 10 people,” said Caira. “It’s my hope that (the DEP) will act expeditiously. (Artificial turf) is the way of the future, and we think we should be able to provide our student-athletes and thousands of others the same opportunity that other communities have.”