The Biddeford City Council has authorized the use of $1.17 million in savings related to a high school renovation project to begin repairs at the city’s iconic Waterhouse Field.

City councilors discussed for more than two hours Tuesday a proposal to use the $1.17 million made available after the city refinanced the $34 million Biddeford High School renovation bond to take advantage of better interest rates. School officials want to use that money to fund the first phase of repairs at the high school track and at Waterhouse Field, which was closed indefinitely in April when an inspection revealed the bleachers were unsafe.

The City Council voted 6-3 to authorize the transfer of the money to the school’s capital improvement budget line. Councilors Marc Lessard, Robert Quattrone and Michael Swanton opposed the plan. The authorization required six votes to pass.

Councilors and residents who opposed the plan questioned whether the city should invest more than $1 million in a property it doesn’t own.

Waterhouse Field is owned by a nonprofit – the Waterhouse Field Alumni Association – and has been leased to the city for $1 a year since 1973. The lease continues until the school department stops using it for athletics, officials have said.

The first phase of the project at Waterhouse will cost roughly $840,000 and include bleachers for 2,000 people, new lights, a scoreboard, audio system and exterior fencing. Work will begin soon, but it is likely that the bleachers won’t be installed until October. Superintendent Jeremy Ray said the city can borrow temporary bleachers from another school department, which would allow sports teams to use the field in the fall.

Work at the high school track will cost an estimated $338,000. The bulk of that money, about $250,000, will be used to replace the track. Other improvements include ground work, jumping pits, throwing pads, an audio system, track equipment and a small retaining wall. That work will begin next year.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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