Despite the snowy weather, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors will be in session today. On the agenda: a proposal to spend about $3.1 million to install artificial turf and lights at two Prince William County middle schools.
Board Chairman Corey Stewart, R-At Large, will present his plan to spend most of the $4 million in “carry-over” funds from the 2013 fiscal year budget to upgrade the football fields at Saunders and Gainesville middle schools at cost of about $1 million each.
The remaining money -- about $1.1 million -- would be used for enhancement projects at other county parks, including:
- $150,000 for a permanent auxiliary facility at Fuller Heights Park;
- $300,000 for a permanent auxiliary facility at Veterans Park;
- $400,000 for lighting one rectangular field and one diamond field at Long Park;
- $250,000 for lighting one rectangular field at Godwin Middle School.
The proposal comes a month after about 300 residents gathered for a town hall meeting to voice complaints about the county’s athletic fields and the difficulty area youth sports leagues have in securing and scheduling fields for games and practices.
It’s not clear whether Stewart will find the votes to pass the plan. Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, will present an alternate plan that would change the scheduling system for existing school athletic facilities and encourage private youth-sports leagues to “sponsor” fields for improvements.
But in an interview Monday, Stewart said the county has neglected its parks and recreation facilities since the recession hit in 2007 and it’s time to play catch-up.
This initial proposal, Stewart said, will be the first step of a larger plan to upgrade county parks are recreation facilities. Prince William County, he added, “has by far the worst athletic fields in Northern Virginia.”
“If you don’t have athletic fields and things for kids to do, they’re going to get into trouble,” Stewart said. “It’s not just a quality of life issue, it’s … fundamentally are we going to keep our kids in good shape and athletic and out of trouble? It is important.”
If his proposal is approved, Stewart said it will take about a year to install the artificial turf at the middle schools. The improvements also hinge on the completion of a “memorandum of understanding” between the county parks and recreation department and the public schools that would allow youth-sports leagues greater access to public school playing fields.
The new fields, which Stewart said would be primarily used by youth football, lacrosse and field hockey leagues, could allow the county to close or repurpose the field next to the county landfill, which has long been the source of complaints among parents and league officials because of the chicken bones and other debris left by birds that forage the landfill for food.
“We’re still looking at that,” Stewart said of the field. “It’s just kind of gross and unusable in its current condition. … In my view it’s unsanitary.”
Citizens are invited to address the supervisors about local playing fields during the board’s evening session, which will begin at 6 p.m.