Town and school officials were set to meet this week to discuss the next steps needed to replace the town’s athletic field after voters rejected a $1.2 million spending plan. Contributed photo

SCARBOROUGH — Town and school officials are going back to the drawing board to figure out how to replace the turf field and resurface the outdoor track by the high school after voters rejected a $1.2 million spending plan at the polls Nov. 5.

“We are obviously disappointed,” Scarborough Community Services Director Todd Souza said Nov. 7, just days after 54% of voters turned down the referendum. “We need to get together to figure out what our next step is and what modifications we need to do.” 

Scarborough Activities and Athletics Director Mike LeGage, who was “shocked and surprised” by the referendum result, said the next step is likely to conduct testing to evaluate conditions on the field and track. He said the school department typically tests the facilities every few years, but didn’t this year because of the pending vote.

That testing, he said, will guide how to best move forward, how impending the replacement should be, and whether athletics will be played this spring.

“It’s a little premature to know where we are going to be this spring or fall. Once we have those tests, we will reconvene,” LeGage said.

Scarborough’s turf field was damaged this summer, but after repairs was reopened to sports teams, including the girls soccer team, which won a playoff game there against Falmouth Oct. 29. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Souza said the need to replace the turf field is not directly tied to the $25,000 in damage that was caused to the property in July, when three teenagers from Westbrook and Windham drove a pickup truck onto the field. Repairs were made to the field and, after a short time offline, it was opened up for fall sports teams.

“The turf field is safe, but the average lifespan for a field like that is 10 years. We are going into year 13,” Souza said. “The replacement has been on our radar for a while.”

The town included replacing the turf and track among its capital improvement goals for this fiscal year, indicating it’s “becoming increasing more expensive to maintain and less attractive to rental revenue due to ripping of material, lifting of lines and general turf wear.”

“It was time,” LeGage said of the need to replace the facilities. “We  have certainly got our money out of that field.”

Souza said staff work hard to continue to keep the field safe for school sports teams and other athletic groups, but its condition is making it harder to do so.

“It’s been well cared for by the town and schools, but it’s getting more challenging to keep that field in good working condition,” he said.

Like the turf field, the track is also showing its age. According to the town’s capital improvement plan, the track “has lost a substantial amount of its surface materials in certain area and has shown increasing cracking throughout the surface.”

The goal had been to do the work and have the field and track replaced by Aug. 1, 2020 and available for fall athletics. With the rejection at the polls earlier this month, that target date may have to be pushed back.

Souza said ultimately a decision needs to be made as to when and how to get the item back before voters and “if voters aren’t supportive, how do we make sure we can continue to maintain it.”

“The problem doesn’t go away,” Town Manager Tom Hall said. “Regardless of how we modify it, it is still going to be a high enough value that it is going to require voter approval.”

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