, Salem, MA

September 13, 2013

Salem mayor, council in favor of extra Bertram Field improvements

By Bethany Bray

---- — SALEM — City councilors gave preliminary approval last night to nearly $161,000 in extra funds for the Bertram Field renovation project, to cover a budget overrun as well a new concession trailer and other improvements.

Bertram Field, Salem High School’s main football stadium, is in the middle of a $1.9 million renovation. Work — including the installation of an artificial turf field, renovation and expansion of the running track and other improvements — is slated to be finished by Nov. 1.

The project’s budget needs to be increased because of extra costs incurred by this summer’s decontamination of the site, Mayor Kim Driscoll said in a letter to city councilors this week. Bertram Field was closed June 3 when arsenic was discovered in pre-construction soil tests.

Last night, the council voted 10-0 to approve extra funding for the project as well as additional improvements: a new concession trailer and storage structure, repair of stadium light fixtures and replacement of light bulbs, and new soccer nets, hurdles and mats.

The close to $161,000 will be paid for with funds previously approved for other school projects (in 2008 and 2012), which were not needed or spent.

“This means that we are not borrowing additional funds, but reallocating unspent and no longer needed funds from other school department projects,” Driscoll wrote to councilors.

City councilors OK’d the issue last night with little discussion; the few comments made were in favor.

The board will hold a public hearing on the issue in the coming weeks before voting on final approval of the funding in a future meeting.

Visitors stands will be missing when Bertram Field reopens, despite this push for extra funding.

The visitors stands were removed during construction and their replacement was not included in the original project budget. The track is being expanded to regulation size of 400 meters; the new track will run through where the visitors stands used to be.

This week, the mayor’s office confirmed that replacement of the visitors stands is not included in the Bertram project, whether or not the $160,917 of extra funding is fully approved.

Driscoll has said visitors stands could be added to the complex later.

In her letter to councilors, Driscoll said the other extra improvements (soccer nets, concession stand, etc.) were suggested by the school department to replace deteriorating items at Bertram Field. In the case of the storage structure, one of Bertram’s “old, rusty, unsightly” storage trailers collapsed when it was moved for this summer’s construction, Driscoll said.

Bertram’s existing concessions trailer is “rusty, crooked and in general disrepair,” she wrote.

City councilors approved a $1.9 million bond for renovations and upgrades at Bertram Field in May. A state grant will cover $400,000 of the work; the city is responsible for the remaining $1.5 million.

City officials say the field is expected to be ready for use by Nov. 1, in time to host the Thanksgiving Day football game against rival Beverly High School.

In the meantime, Salem High School has scheduled football, soccer and other fall sports games at alternative sites. SHS varsity and junior varsity football teams are playing all of their games out of town until November.

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.