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Voters in the Sag Harbor school district approved a $1.45 million bond referendum Wednesday for a natural grass athletic field and other work, reversing course on a controversial proposal to use synthetic turf.
The 458-73 vote was the district's third on the issue in four years.
Voters first approved a $1.62 million bond for a synthetic turf field at Pierson Middle/High School in a fall 2013 referendum, only to reject it three years later. Voters in December 2016 were asked to approve spending $365,000 more to pay for added costs after the lowest bid for the project was $500,000 more than what officials had budgeted.
"We have a very active and supportive community for which all of us within the Sag Harbor Schools are grateful," Superintendent Katy Graves said in a statement. "On behalf of the Board of Education and administration, we want to thank them for their approval of the proposition."
Work on the natural grass field could begin this summer, according to a statement released by the district. The bond also covers construction of a new practice field at Sag Harbor Elementary School that is expected to begin in summer 2018.
In recent years, opposition to the synthetic turf has grown in communities across Long Island. Residents have cited concerns about the health and safety of the material. Had the December vote been approved, it would have used funds from the district's Capital Reserve Fund, leaving it with a $1.77 million balance.
District officials had proposed using a type of crumb rubber in the synthetic turf.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Concerns have been raised by the public about the safety of recycled rubber tire crumb used in synthetic turf fields and playgrounds in the United States . . . Limited studies have not shown an elevated health risk from playing on fields with tire crumb, but the existing studies do not comprehensively evaluate the concerns about health risks from exposure to tire crumb."
The district's voters rejected the additional spending in December, 1,016-135. Voters had approved the fall 2013 bond referendum for the synthetic turf field, 585-507.
Susan Lamontagne, a school board trustee since July 2016 who ran in opposition to synthetic turf, said earlier in the week that she had hoped a reversal on the issue would serve "as a model on Long Island and New York State for how to develop really nice, healthy, top-notch athletic fields."
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