Monday, July 28, 2014

Guest Post: MCPS Dir. James Song tells BOE Artificial Turf "could" be bid out.

Why bid when you can just shop? 

A member of the public took notes from the off camera meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education Fiscal Management Committee Meeting on March 18, 2013.  One of the topics at that meeting was artificial turf procurement. 

MCPS Director of Construction James Song spoke to the committee about the future direction of artificial turf fields in Montgomery County and how he wanted to make the program “self-sustaining,” through a number of creative approaches... For instance, if a private group puts up $350 K to $400 K as an initial capital investment, they can be given a user contract for five years. Their option to renew kicks in at the five-year mark. User fees would make up the difference in costs, but he gave no data on how well this is working. He did not say whether private groups would be asked for another large sum of money on contract renewal.
He takes most of his field performance data from the Field Turf brochure, which helps make the case for his numbers...
James Song talked about the following:
  • The MC fields are set up on a 10-year cycle. They each cost $1.1 MM. MC currently has four high schools with AT fields, with two on the way. This $1.1 MM is split roughly between the cost of the rug and the cost of the field construction. This amounts to $550K.
  • His funding sources vary. For instance Wootton High School funding is 100 percent private. Based on the 10-year life cycle the funding approaches can be creative.
  • His replacement costs, based on a 10-year life cycle, are $450K - $500K per field. However, he admitted that the 10-year term is not a hard number. It’s the manufacturer’s recommendation, but they also conduct annual inspections of the fields and supply additional infill and do spot repairs of the rugs. He did not say whether this was included in the contract, or paid for, nor did anyone ask him how long the warranty actually lasts.
  • All MC fields are Field Turf/Tarkett. The company came recommended through the Keystone Purchasing Network. The benefits to using Field Turf/Tarkett are that they provide a professional product, used by professional teams. He said the county could bid out, evaluating whether a better product could be delivered at less price.
  • He said that all MC AT fields are the same. The prices did vary for the fields with RMHS costing $950 K; Walter Johnson costing $1.0 million; and Gaithersburg costing $1.12 million. Wootton came in at $1.1 million, but those funds are private.
  • MC is exploring infill mixes for health and environmental reasons. There has been talk of lead in tire crumb and other health concerns, but nothing has been proven. They are monitoring the latest technology looking for ways to keep temps from rising more than 15 degrees on the fields. Infill mixes are being explored and they can bid on different materials because Field Turf/Tarkett will accept other infill materials.
  • Montgomery County has done extensive research on injuries and harm related to AT versus natural grass and artificial turf appears to be safer.
  • He said that replacement costs could be $450 K - $500K, but he has yet to replace a field. This information agrees nicely with the Field Turf literature.
  • More competition will bring down prices, but MC wants the best.
  • In terms of grass fields, he said that there are constant costs such as water usage, striping the fields for athletic events, and fertilizers and pesticides. The county is spending $50,000 to $60,000 for natural grass stadium fields. Artificial turf is a fraction of these costs.
  • For RMHS, private groups kicked in roughly $300 K. Annual maintenance on this field comes in about $8,100 per year. For WJHS, private groups kicked in roughly $335 K, which gave them 900 hours of use annually, and maintenance costs on this field are $16,000 to $17,000 annually. [He did not explain the 100 percent difference in maintenance costs for these two fields.]
  • He said that scheduling for use of the MC artificial turf fields goes through Community Use of Public Facilities. He said that CUPF charges $150 to $175 per hour. [He did not mention that the fields require a three-hour minimum rental on weekends, nor did he mention that the rates for other groups can be more than $200/hour with a three-hour minimum.]
  • The self-sustaining model is based upon MCPS, CUPF and private groups working in concert to keep the money flowing. He attends a lot of benefits to strengthen the county’s relationship with private groups.
  • They are looking at 3,000 hours of annual usage on the artificial turf fields...
  • If more artificial turf fields can generate revenues, it may allow more artificial turf fields to be constructed.
  • Of natural grass he said that after two years they die and are replaced...

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