By Claire Walla
The ongoing discussion revolving around proposed plans to implement a turf field and overhead lights on the Pierson Middle/High School campus — which now has a field composed of natural grass and no lights — was met with some concern at a regularly scheduled school board meeting last Monday, November 28. But not because board members voiced any dissent.
“I’m in favor of the turf field 100 percent,” said board member Sandi Kruel. “But we need to go and find out how our neighbors feel.”
By revisiting the issue with school board members, she continued, “It seems to me you’re putting the cart before the horse.”
Kruel indicated that the major issue at this point preventing the board from making any decisions about whether or not to go to bond for these maintenance projects concerns the school’s neighbors.
“I thought this [issue] was done until you had the discussion with the neighbors,” Kruel said, addressing Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto.
Dr. Gratto explained that he would be meeting with Sag Harbor resident Steven Reiner — who essentially represents a handful of the district’s neighbors — on December 13 to discuss various issues of concern to those living in close proximity to the school district.
According to Reiner, the biggest issue is not the turf field — which is estimated to cost $1.6 million — but the installation of stadium-style lighting, at a cost of $675,000. He said that while neighbors worry about the disruption to the flow of traffic in the neighborhood during what is estimated to be a 10-week construction process, in the long-term they worry about the potential for light pollution.
Dr. Gratto, however, insisted that the lights would have a minimal effect on the district’s neighbors.
“The lighting that we’ve researched is pretty contained,” he said. “It doesn’t have a lot of spillage outside the field.”
He went on to explain additional benefits to having a field with stadium lighting. For one, he said, more parents and family members who work during the day would be able to attend student games if they were held later in the day. The school would also be able to extend practice hours and increase the number of sports teams that currently use on-campus facilities. Furthermore, he added, the school would be able to generate added income from non-curricular and extra-curricular use.
Parent Laura Matthers told the board that she has first-hand experience with lights, as she lives across the street from Mashashimuet Park, which often uses lights at night.
“I can tell you anything you want to know about lights,” she said, and suggested school board members and interested parties go down to the park at night to see first-hand what affect the lights actually have on the outlying areas.
Similarly, Sag Harbor resident Marian Cassata recommended the school utilize its buses to organize a field trip to a neighboring school district “to see how much spillage there is onto the side streets,” she explained. “Seeing is believing.”
Board member Christ Tice wondered if it would be possible to bring portable lights in for a varsity game so that parents, administrators and neighbors could all experience the impact of stadium-style lighting first-hand.
Dr. Gratto seemed to think that was a good idea and suggested potentially bringing lights in for a girls’ softball game in the spring.