Voters in Regional School Unit 5 approved on Tuesday a $4 million track and field complex at Freeport High School after more than a decade of discussion and three previous votes.

Though a majority of Durham and Pownal residents voted against the project, Freeport carried the measure with 1,319 supporting it and 677 against.

The final outcome, including results from all three towns that are part of RSU 5, was 1,654 in support and 1,308 against.

A second ballot question asked if voters wanted to borrow another $353,955 for lighting and other improvements. That question also passed by a margin of 1,602 in favor and 1,313 opposed.

The school department has discussed building a track and field complex at the high school for more than a decade. Voters have rejected the idea at the ballot three times before.

“I’m extremely pleased that both questions passed,” said Michelle Ritcheson, chairwoman of the RSU 5 Board of Directors. “It’s a hugely important project not just for the students, but for the entire community.”

The complicated ballot asked voters to pay for the project by issuing a $1 million bond already authorized for an ongoing $14.4 million high school renovation, issuing a new bond of $184,000, and using about $761,000 already earmarked for athletic field improvements. It also asks voters to accept roughly $2.3 million in donations raised by Tri-Town Track and Field, a citizen group supporting the project. The donation includes a $1.3 million pledge from the Nike corporation.

Altogether, the cost of the project to the school district would be between $1.7 million and $2.2 million.

The proposed complex would replace current playing fields at the high school. It would include an eight-lane track surrounding a sports field. Organizers selected Nike Grind, a synthetic turf made out of pre-consumer waste from Nike’s shoe manufacturing process instead of commonly used crumb rubber, which some believe is linked to cancer and other health problems.

The fields are expected to be complete at the same time as the high school renovation in fall 2017. Supporters of the measure said the fields are badly needed for the school district’s sports and academic programs, but critics were concerned about the cost of the project and its possible health and environmental effects.

 

 


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