HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini said he will ask the City Council to borrow $713,000 to rebuild the Sapienza Memorial Track at the high school.
If the borrowing is approved, students should be able to use the running track in the spring of next year, Fiorentini said. Because the track is in poor condition, it has been off limits to students since the spring of 2018.
Fiorentini said the initial estimate for the project was as low as $500,000, which the city would have partially paid with $300,000 that was set aside from an earlier project, and the remainder through borrowing. The latest estimate for the track work, however, is $921,000, plus a 10% contingency, he said.
Fiorentini said the city needs to borrow $713,000 to do the project. He plans to seek approval for that when the City Council meets Tuesday night in City Hall.
"Adding an eighth lane (to the track) and relocating the long jump and field events to accommodate the eighth lane contributed to the higher cost," Fiorentini said. "The higher cost means, however, that we now need quite a bit more money to do it."
The track and the field that is within the track were named in memory of the late Tony Sapienza, a long-time Haverhill High math teacher and cross country coach. He was a world class runner.
The track is in such poor condition that no track and field events have been held there since the spring of 2018, Athletic Director Tom O'Brien said.
"Last year we determined the track was unsafe to use," O'Brien said about the 20-year-old track that has been patched over and over again and cannot be patched any further.
Fiorentini said the $300,000 that was set aside comes from $400,000 that remains in an account used to build the high school's new multipurpose sports field that features a softball diamond and full-sized fields for soccer, field hockey and lacrosse.
The city had budgeted $2 million to build the field, which ended up costing about $1.6 million, leaving the $400,000 left over. O'Brien said $100,000 of that leftover money was used to design the new track and field.
Fiorentini said the higher-than-expected construction cost will not delay the project.
"The track is a top priority for us so I do not want to see it delayed," he said. "If the bond (for borrowing) is approved by the council Tuesday, work can start as soon as possible, with the hope that it will ready for the next spring track season."
The project includes resurfacing the entire track and adding an eighth lane needed for competition. The eighth lane was very important to O’Brien and others, the mayor said.
O'Brien said an eight-lane track is standard these days. Haverhill High track coach Mike McGuire said an eighth lane will allow the high school to host Massachusetts Interscholastic MIAA championship meets, and that an eight-lane track is a preference of the MIAA.
"They have been looking for schools with eight-lane tracks, which are more desirable to host championship meets," he said. "We host a very successful invitational each spring (the Ottaviani Invitational), except for this year as the track is in such poor condition, and with an additional lane, it will also prolong the life of the track. And from a safety standpoint, when you start a race, bumping occurs so you benefit with a wider straight-away by having more room for the runners."
McGuire said that in addition to replacing the track, the long jump and triple jump runways will be resurfaced, as will the pole vault area.
"We will also upgrade the shot-put and discus-throwing areas," he said. "We named this facility after a great guy and a world renowned runner, so we want it to be a great facility. Our track and field is a great source of pride for the community and we're very appreciative the city is making this happen."
Fiorentini said Quirk Construction company of Georgetown was the winning low bidder among three companies competing for the project. Quirk submitted a winning bid of $921,000.
"We are also recommending a standard 10% contingency," Fiorentini said. "Parents and student athletes really want and need a new track so this is great news and a big deal for many."