BELEN—If all goes as planned, the Belen Eagles will be competing on a new football field and running track next fall.
On a vote of 4-1, the Belen Consolidated Schools Board of Education approved $862,294 from bond money to resurface the football field and track at Belen High School.
BCS assistant superintendent of finance Annette Torres said the quote from Robert Cohen Company was the lowest of the three bids the district received. Westwind Landscape Construction quoted $884,588, and AK Sales and Consulting $947,117 for the job.
Board secretary Lisa Chavez said it was obvious the facility needs to be resurfaced.
“At other schools, the turf is green green. Ours is gray or black,” Chavez said. “The first discussion we had was during the facilities master plan workshop in November. I don’t see it among the priority items. All these years in need and no one is talking about it.”
Chavez asked if paying for the resurfacing of the field and track would negatively impact other projects being funded by bond proceeds.
Torres said it would not.
“We are not taking from another project; allocated projects are allocated,” she said.
Torres said turf fields are usually replaced every 10 years, but the one at BHS was installed in 2006.
“It’s way over due. It is a safety concern. Usually there is two inches of turf but there’s nothing right now. There are cracks and pebbles on the track,” she said.
“The track was designed so the starter blocks can be anchored into the track but they don’t anymore. Other students have to hold them for the runners. Some teams won’t come to meets here because of the condition of the track. We could be disqualified.”
Board president Jim Danner pointed out that while the football field is now almost 14 years old, the track is two years older.
The BHS track was installed in early 2007, thanks to a 2006 legislative appropriation of more than $500,000 for the Mondo brand track, the same surface that has been used in every Olympic Games since 1972.
In 2007, Legislative appropriations of $528,000 were approved for artificial turf at the Belen football field, covering most of the $679,000 total bid. Robert Cohen Company was awarded that bid, and was the company that installed the BHS track earlier that year.
Saying he was concerned about being able to fund already planned projects, such as a new HT Jaramillo school, board member Max Cordova asked if Torres felt the field and track should have priority over other projects.
“It’s not necessarily over something else,” Torres answered, “but it is one priority of many in the district.”
Board member Larry Lindberg said in an area with few recreation opportunities, the high school track and field, as well as the swimming pool, served as a recreation center for the community, not just sporting events.
“This community really needs a facility for track and football, but the ROTC uses it, the marching band, the community,” Lindberg said. “It’s a safety issue.”
Belen High School principal Lawrence Sanchez said PE classes are frequently held on the field and track.
“This is not just for our athletes but the safety of all our students,” Sanchez said.
District maintenance supervisor Antonio Sedillo said before last football season, he and his staff installed extra rubber dressing on the field for safety.
“That’s why it looks black. It got us through this season, but next year, it won’t be safe enough to play on,” Sedillo said. “This will give us a new all-surface football field and resurfaced the track, which will be sealed to prevent it from hardening.”
The board voted 4-1 to approve the quote from Robert Cohen, with Cordova the only no vote.
After the meeting, Sedillo said once the contractor is notified a detailed timeline will be established.
“We anticipate work beginning after school ends and expect it to be finished before the first game in August,” he said.
“The football field will have to be demoed first and replaced, then the track will be resurfaced and sealed.”
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.