Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What's "Surplus" and "Cutting in Line"

Testimony to Montgomery County Council February 12, 2008

1. How can Superintendent Weast and the Board of Education declare MCPS CIP funds surplus before a project is completed?

Let's take the Wayside Elementary School project as an example. How can there be surplus funds from a project that is only 55% complete? (Attachment A) How can any rational manager possible assume that no additional funds will be needed and that $600,000 of money planned for this project can be diverted? We know that MCPS does not make good decisions in this regard. Here are three quick examples: First, Richard Montgomery High School recently opened the doors on its new modernized facility. The science labs in that new building are equipped with elementary sized lab tables and chairs. There are no plans to remedy this situation and no surplus funds to draw from. Meanwhile, at Churchill High School the ELEVEN science labs that were rendered unusable during that school's modernization in 2000 have still NEVER been fixed. (Attachment B) Superintendent Weast claims to have put funds in the CIP to fix ONE of those science labs. Parents have been solicited multiple times for funds to resolve the problems created in the science lab construction. And when Rockville High School was modernized one of the many deficiencies was the undersized tennis courts that rendered them unusable for competition. These are just a few examples of MCPS CIP projects that still have outstanding CIP fund needs.

2. IF there is a surplus, what project is next in the queue?

Let us assume that surplus CIP money does exist. How could ANY surplus funds go to a new project that has never been vetted through the MCPS CIP process when the MCPS CIP book clearly lists hundreds of pre-existing projects in the CIP pipeline. As just an example, let's take a look at the Bathroom Renovation list. (Attachment C) Do you realize that this list ONLY shows those schools that are not in line for a modernization? IF a school is getting a modernization in the next 20 years they were not included on this list. How does that work when your toilet won't flush, the stall door doesn't close and the sink doesn't have running water? Is that how people maintain their homes? Gee, we might move in 20 years so let's not fix the toilet? IF there is surplus CIP money it needs to go right to this list TODAY. Our children need to flush.

After all bathrooms are made usable in Montgomery County Public Schools take a look at the playgrounds. Do you realize that the MCPS plan is to replace one per year? The backlog of playgrounds that need repair/replacement is about 50 years? Great plan. The result is that taxpayers must raise the funds to pay for playground repairs because the Superintendent does not see playgrounds as a priority.

Yet, a plan to give one of our county football fields away to a private organization jumps to the top of the Capital Budget list without any feasibility study, without any notice to the public prior to the BoE vote, without any community input at the BoE level, without any bids from potential contractors, without any discussion of the benefits, concerns or issues surrounding such a decision. (Attachment D) Any why does the Northwood principal also think his school is in line for artificial turf? (See attachment E) Are there more of these "deals" in the wings? Why aren't they part of the MCPS CIP submission?

We are here today witnessing the Board of Education asking for a pot of money that doesn't have any parameters on it. There is no contract, no idea what the project might actually cost, no contingency for where the money goes if the project does not proceed on schedule.

3. What guarantees any funds allotted to an artificial turf project will actually be spent on that project?

Case in point: Last year the County Council funded the MCPS Operating Budget request to include funding for the largest county high schools to use the Comcast Center for graduations. (Attachment F) What happened to that money? Good question. Only 3 of the 6 high schools that qualify to use the larger graduation venue are going to be allowed to use it. What happened to the money that was appropriated for the other 3 schools?

I can tell you that no one in Montgomery County government cares where the graduation venue money went: not the Community Superintendents, not the Superintendent, not the Board of Education, and not the Inspector General. So once you give money to MCPS, taxpayers have no guarantee that the money will be used for its designated purpose. And make no mistake, our kids are watching. They are real clear on the fact that there are no consequences for ignoring laws, policies or procedures. Is this the kind of citizen that Montgomery County wants to be raising through its public schools? (Attachment G)

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

Janis Sartucci

Statement to Montgomery County Council


My name is Marci C. I am a lifelong resident of MontgomeryCounty, and currently live in Poolesville, Maryland.

I come before you to speak about health and safety concerns regarding the artificial turf field that is in the planning stage for Richard MontgomeryHigh School. I want to ask you today if the type of turf and infill to be used has been determined. If so, and it if is an artificial turf field that has rubber infill, I have a lot of information about the possible health and safety issues of rubber crumb infill. I hope you will look over all of this information that I have compiled before agreeing to fund artificial turf fields in MCPS.

Artificial turf is comprised of grass (polyethylene or polypropylene fibers) woven like a rug, and the material that is raked in between the grass fibers which creates a cushion is referred to as "infill," approximately 100 tons of ground-up rubber on each artificial turf field. On a hot summer day, the rubber infill can heat up to over 140 degrees F. and outgasses toxic compounds into the air, some of which are known to be carcinogens. Hazardous metals from the rubber crumbs are leached into the ground water. Dust particles from these crumbs are easily inhaled. There is no barrier between rubber crumbs and the athletes playing on the fields. Skin rashes, nasal and eye irritations from these corrosive compounds, as well as playing in excessive heat are real conditions.

Please keep an open mind and read the attached studies regarding the toxicity of the infill, and the temperatures the material can reached during playing time, and I think you will find, as I did, that there is some question as to whether this type of field is totally safe for our children.

There are alternative infills on the market, STF Infill™ for one, which is a safe and sanitary synthetic turf infill, nontoxic, and free from heavy metals, waste, steel and fiberglass byproducts. It does not heat up to the temperatures that rubber does. Literature and testing information on the STF Infill™ is provided for you to look over further, and to pass along to the appropriate persons.

I would also like to address the injuries to athletes playing on artificial turf. Skin abrasion is the largest concern, as artificial turf is more abrasive than grass. Turf wounds are the exact skin injury that allow for MRSA transmission and contraction. Professional NFL players average 2 to 3 turf abrasions per week on artificial turf. High school football players in Texashave 204 artificial turf fields in their 1134 high schools stadiums, and average 16 times higher than the estimated national average for MRSA infections, according to 3 studies conducted by Texas Department of State Health Services.

There are also more reported lower limb injuries reported with knee and ankle injuries due to instability of the turf, and cleat traction. These same injuries were also reported by soccer players.

Professional football players were polled in a survey regarding playing surfaces and 72% said they would prefer to play on grass fields to prevent injury. 65% said that playing on artificial turf contributes to more injury. 74% said artificial turf causes more soreness and fatigue when played on.

We need to be the voice for our children, who don't have a say in this matter.

With that being said about the potential health risks of an artificial turf field, I would like address the upkeep of the artificial turf, namely sanitizing. There is a regularly scheduled maintenance program that needs to be adhered to, and I am curious to know if all concerned are aware of it.

Organic matter such as airborne dirt, blood, sweat, spit, skin, and food allow bacteria to proliferate and live. The artificial turf itself will get covered with these things and be a breeding ground and host to organisms. Artificial turf needs to be regularly professional maintained, disinfected, and treated with antimicrobial agents to yield protection against spread of MRSA infections, and inhibit growth of mold, mildew, algae, fungi, and other bacteria on the surface of the field.

If staph is on the skin, and players get turf wounds, they are leaving behind their skin on the turf. I have strong feelings about the turf being disinfected routinely. These services need to be contracted for and worked into any operating budget the school board has for artificial turf fields in one and all county high school stadiums.

Entire schools need to be proactively treated (not just the athletic areas, but all areas, including desks, chairs, doorknobs, computer keyboards, cafeteria tables, etc.) with antimicrobial technology (BioShield 75™) that will destroy microbes on contact, and not allow them to grow at all. Schools would be much healthier environments. Inside and out.