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School district, city fighting arson, vandalism

One city field needs replacement at up to$1 million cost

Posted: June 23, 2011 - 8:20pm
A Juneau youth plays soccer near the burned artificial turf at Adair-Kennedy Park on Wednesday. The damage occurred over the Memorial Day weekend. Minor damage was reported at the Thunder Mountain High School sports field last weekend.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
A Juneau youth plays soccer near the burned artificial turf at Adair-Kennedy Park on Wednesday. The damage occurred over the Memorial Day weekend. Minor damage was reported at the Thunder Mountain High School sports field last weekend.

Investigations into vandalism at school and city recreational areas aren’t going well, and the price for replacing one damaged athletic field may reach $1 million.

Some artificial turf at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park was burned in May, and due to its age and wear the field can’t be permanently spot-patched to fix the damage.

“The estimate I’ve heard from our engineering department, and it’s not an official estimate, is around $1 million. ...A lot of that depends on what other kind of work is involved,” said Parks and Recreation Superintendent George Schaaf.

Last week, school district employees reported burn marks on the Thunder Mountain High School turf that occurred about two weeks prior.

Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School also suffered damage from graffiti vandals this summer.

Juneau Police Department Administrative Manager Cindee Brown-Mills said investigators found nothing at the Thunder Mountain campus, and aren’t sure what caused the fire.

“No accelerant found at the scene, we really have no idea,” she said. “At this point we’re at a dead end. If anyone has information please call us.”

Juneau School District Communications Manager Kristin Bartlett said there is a small, circular singed patch on the artificial turf at Thunder Mountain. Bartlett said in talking with staff, they’re not entirely convinced the damage was intentional and think it might have been a model rocket or something that went off course. The district is being cautious with all the vandalism and arson going on.

“At this time, I think that because it’s not deep and it’s along the sidelines, they’re looking at how it might be repaired, but aren’t any immediate concerns,” Bartlett said. “Since that time the school has installed a security camera.”

That damage was estimated at around $500.

Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School was spray-painted all around the outside last week. Bartlett said the damage was about $500, including labor and cleaning material costs. That damage has been cleaned up.

“There isn’t any long-term damage,” she said.

The school district has insurance for all of its facilities through the City and Borough of Juneau. Bartlett said the damage amounts likely aren’t high enough to report and will come out of the general fund.

If students are the ones causing the damage, the district could hold them liable for the costs under its vandalism policy, which states: “The Board of Education believes that students should learn to respect property and take pride in the institutions of this community and the schools of this district. A student who willfully and maliciously damages the property of this district, real or personal, will be held liable for the damage. The Board will hold liable for the amount of the damage the parent or guardian having legal custody and control of the minor responsible for the damage.”

Bartlett said those responsible will likely face criminal repercussions and, on the district end, would pay restitution.

“We need the community’s help to take good care of all the school facilities and athletic fields so everybody can continue to enjoy them,” Bartlett said.

Adair-Kennedy has the biggest financial dilemma over the arson on its turf.

“There was evidence of accelerants there,” Brown-Mills said.

There are deep burns in the artificial turf. Schaaf said city engineers estimated the arson damage between $10,000 and $25,000 to repair.

That said, repairs are actually going to be a lot more expensive and extensive because of the age and wear on the field.

Schaaf said the field is 11 years old and already showing its age. He explained artificial turf fields are a combination of synthetic carpet grass and crumb rubber. The grass fibers are what holds the rubber in place and the rubber is supposed to be an inch and a half thick. The field thickness is now, on average, a half inch thick.

Schaaf said there are other areas of more common damage, including the areas where soccer players do penalty kicks, for example.

“The age and the condition of the field complicate the repair of the arson damage,” Schaaf said.

The city does have replacement turf and rubber, however because of the age and wear of the field if they were to replace the two sections of turf from arson damage it would not match the existing field in multiple ways and would cause other issues.

Schaaf said the company that built and installed the field is now out of business, but he did contact the company that built Thunder Mountain’s field. After sending in measurements and other information, the company said it would not be possible to spot-repair the field.

“We’re pursuing replacement of the field because we’re getting near that point anyway,” Schaaf said. “In the meantime, we’re seeing if we can find someone to do a short-term repair of the field.”

Schaaf is waiting on more information before he can present options to Parks and Recreation.

“No matter what, whoever’s responsible for the damage, I hope they didn’t realize what they were doing,” Schaaf said. “They caused an amount of damage that’s almost impossible to place a cost on.”

Schaaf said they also will be looking at putting in video surveillance, however that also will be costly since the facility isn’t wired for that kind of technology.

Schaaf said there also has been damage to the backstop at Dzantik’i Heeni and several port-a-potties were vandalized at Lena Point. Parks and Recreation agreed to double the reward amount for the arrest and conviction of those responsible. The Crimeline reward is $500 and Parks and Recreation matched it.

Brown-Mills said if people have information they can call JPD at 586-0600 or if they wish to leave an anonymous tip on Crimeline they can go to Juneaucrimeline.com.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com

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