Council Approves Adding Money for Turf Field at Churchill
The County Council’s Education Committee on Monday approved adding $1.3 million to the Montgomery County schools’ budget, laying the groundwork for an artificial turf field to be built at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac.
This despite a pending lawsuit from the Montgomery Soccer Inc. over the selection process that determines which private group would help fund and in return get field time on the Churchill turf field. The suit also alleges a similar flawed selection process for the turf fields at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville and Gaithersburg High School.
As it stands, the Potomac field is being funded by the Winston Churchill High School Booster Cub with a commitment to the county to raise and contribute $250,000 for the project. Bethesda Lacrosse/Potomac Soccer Association has pledged to contribute the remaining amount of just over $1 million. According to MCPS Director of Facilities James Song, in exchange for the upfront funds to build the field, the partnership will get 1,000 hours of playing time on the turf field, a premium for sports teams who compete for limited fields in the county. Song said after the school athletic teams are awarded time, about 200 hours of field use will be available for the public.
MSI, however contends in a lawsuit and in an appeal to the State Board of Education, that the MCPS procurement process was flawed and did not take into account the large demographic diversity of players the organization serves in the evaluation of its bid for the partnership. He said the MSI bid for the Churchill field was also $25,000 higher than the accepted bid.
“They had a scoring criteria they did not follow. If they had followed it they would have won,.” said MSI Executive Director Doug Schuessler.
MSI was selected by MCPS and given a notice of intent to award a partnership at Gaithersburg High School, according to Schuessler. But, Schuessler said that MSI bid on the Gaithersburg field in an effort to get time at the Richard Montgomery field which is more centrally located for his organization. The MSI bid for the Gaithersburg field was $950,000 He said his group upped its initial bid for the Gaithersburg High field believing the increase in the bid there would secure its partnership at the Richard Montgomery field. Bethesda Soccer Club however was awarded the partnership at the Richard Montgomery field.
MCPS Spokesman Brian Edwards said the school board is proceeding with a plan to release a request for bids to build the turf at Churchill.
“The lawsuit is wholly and completely without merit,” he said declining to get specific about the school board’s reaction to the filing or provide information about the scoring criteria for the partnership.
Councilmembers avoided the discussion about the lawsuit saying the decision on who gets the field is not one for the council.
“Any company that actually makes money regardless who they are serving I don’t want to pick who’s the most righteous,” County President Craig Rice said Monday. And he said the council can’t weigh in at this stage since the case is heading to court.
“If this hadn’t been in court you might have actually seen a little bit of a different outcome for us when it came to having a much greater conversation in depth about these kinds of issues. We are hamstrung that this is in court,” he told MyMCMedia Tuesday after the committee meeting.
The council committee’s approval Monday, however did require MCPS to allow the council to review the turf field bids before a contract to do the work is awarded. Included in that review is to be a comparison of artificial versus organic infill for the project and additional information on the preferred use partnership agreements.