CITY HALL — In a council chamber packed with student athletes, parents and community members Tuesday night, the City Council agreed to put $6 million toward improving athletic fields at Burbank and John Burroughs high schools.
The council also directed city staff to use part of $5 million that is already set aside to improve city soccer facilities to improve the southern field at Jordan Middle School
The recommendations were made during a joint City Council and Burbank Unified School District Board meeting, where district officials asked for the city's financial help to replace aging sports fields. Burbank Unified School District board members approached the city about the more than 50-year-old fields at the two high schools, which they say are desperate need of repair, but that the district does not have the money to fix.
"The school district budget does not have the money to address the kinds of things we're talking about tonight," said Michael Hastings, a community activist who serves on the bond oversight and facilities oversight committee for the school district. "And schools are part of the city even though we are not fiscally responsible for them…. Ball fields are like classrooms and if we allowed our classrooms to be in the types of shape that our fields are in, we would be getting a lot more letters and phone calls."
So far the council agreed to install field lighting and expand parking accommodations at Jordan, which is estimated to cost about $1.5 million, City Manager Mary Alvord said.
Since the project requires a budget appropriation, the council must still vote to approve the project at an upcoming meeting before plans can move forward, she said.
"There appears to be four votes to move forward with this, providing, of course, we can mitigate the impacts to the neighborhood," she said.
The council also showed a consensus toward committing $6 million to high-school field improvements would allow the district to install artificial turf on the sports fields, as well as an all-weather track at Burbank and John Burroughs high schools. But that $6 million is only about a third of the $15 million the project is estimated to cost, Alvord said.
But several variables must still be considered, such as what funds the city will ultimately tap to fund improvements, she said. Council members discussed drawing from a mix of general, infrastructure and redevelopment funds.
Officials must also determine whether making improvements to the field and track would trigger Americans with Disability Act accessibility issues, requiring the district to also rehabilitate the stands before the facility can be used, Alvord said.
School leaders are largely satisfied by the council's move last night.
"One of the things that has always impressed me about Burbank is the city services and the city's willingness to jump in and lend a hand whenever the city's citizens need help," said Burbank High School Principal Bruce Osgood, who has been a Burbank resident for 27 years. "Obviously it would be ideal to have the city just cover the whole cost, but I think they are being responsible and looking at the city's overall budget. But I was more than happy with their … willingness to look at the issue."
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