Permit issue delays Stewart Field Turf Project

Conflicting information from the city has put Aberdeen School District (ASD-5) in a permit-related bind that could move two home football games away from Stewart Field.

The news, given by Keith Bloom, construction manager for the Stewart Field Turf Project, left a feeling of frustration for school board members, parents, Aberdeen’s Head Football Coach Todd Bridge, and about 15 of Aberdeen’s football senior players who showed up Tuesday evening, July 19, to the Aberdeen School District’s school board meeting.

Currently, the anticipated completion date for the work is Thursday, Sept. 15, according to Bloom. Aberdeen is scheduled to host the Hoquiam Grizzlies on Friday, Sept. 2, and host the Montesano Bulldogs on Friday, Sept. 9.

“I know nobody’s happy about that,” Bloom said. “I understand that. I’m not minimizing at all. This is a very tough place for anybody to be. But, we acted with due diligence. We expedited every place we could. We did what we could do, and the dice were not loaded for us.”

The issue stems from a Tuesday, May 17 email from a city representative that said a Department of Ecology Construction Stormwater General Permit (CSWGP) was not required and that the city was the permitting agency, according to Bloom.

The permit is required because stormwater runoff from construction sites can carry muddy water, debris, and chemicals into local waterways, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology website. The department requires regulated construction sites to get coverage under the CSWGP.

Stewart Field sits just west of the Wishkah River.

Bloom said his team received the city’s review of its permit application, and how several weeks after the city said the district didn’t need a permit through the Department of Ecology, that the permit actually was required. That put construction for the Field Turf project on hold. The project, which started Wednesday, June 15, now stands at $1,562,171.96, according to ASD-5 documents. Stewart Field will also receive new goal posts.

Annica Mizin, a school district board member, sounded befuddled by the fact there was even a question of needing the permit.

“It’s just unfortunate that this permit is such a basic thing for any construction site,” said Mizin. “I’m just so infuriated because look at what it’s cost our community over something that’s basic 101 before even starting any kind of construction.”

Bloom defended his team in saying Mizin’s point is why he asked the city about the permit.

Construction wasn’t scheduled to start until after the AHS graduation ceremony on Friday, June 10, which was held on Stewart Field.

Jeff Thake, superintendent for ASD-5 who started with the district on Friday, July 1, confirmed the email does exist. He also said he is upset about the conflicting information the district received about the permit, which led to a 12-day work stoppage.

Thake said work was shut down on Wednesday, June 29.

“The biggest issue is from the work stoppage,” said Thake to The Daily World on Wednesday morning, July 20. “Someone told us we don’t need a (Department of Ecology) permit. It took 12 days to secure the Department of Ecology stormwater permit.”

On Thursday, July 14 — 15 calendar days later — work resumed, according to Thake.

While comments were kept to quiet murmurs inside the Community Room at Aberdeen High School, the anger could be heard outside the room after Bloom left.

Bridge explained how after experiencing multiple seasons through the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the team not being able to practice and weight train inside the school facilities, a shortened season where Aberdeen played six games, and then how the school saw more limitations brought on because of the pandemic, that he was ready for a normal season this fall.

“Now, this season we’re like ‘Hey, we’re back to normal, right?’ Wrong,” Bridge said. “We’re not back to normal. There was a 12-day hiatus based upon a snafu and some paperwork, or some miscommunication or misdirection of paperwork, whatever.”

Bridge said he hasn’t received information on the project.

“I’ve got an 11-person coaching staff and there are 62 players, and we’ve been in the dark for five-six weeks,” Bridge said. “It sounds like, from what I just heard in the school board meeting that pretty much everyone’s been in the dark.”

Bridge added how the seniors and juniors that make up the current varsity roster, including their previous C squad schedule, may have had 11 home games in their career. If this situation isn’t fixed, the team will lose two more home games.

“These parents have a legitimate gripe,” Bridge said.

Bridge also gave input on the schedule going forward. He has his eye on Wednesday, Aug. 31., which is the date the permeable base, top course, and fine grading, should finish.

“That’s their date,” Bridge said. “We need to move that (up.) We need to move that to the 23rd, or the 21st, preferably. And we get 16 hours of sunlight. We’re at the prime point where you don’t have to spend (just) 8 hours a day working. You can spend 12. The issue is someone’s gonna have to pay the price for that.”

Bloom discussed trying to move ahead to complete the project sooner and perhaps get back one of Aberdeen’s home games. While the “earthwork” can be done, there’s still the turf that has to be laid.

The problem with the turf is the people who lay the turf itself are “seamstresses” who sew the turf together. That skilled labor force — which is union — can’t work Labor Day weekend, according to Bloom.

Bridge said it sounds as though ASD-5 has done its due diligence and how to him it sounds like somebody else needs to pay the price for the delay in construction. Bridge added how he doesn’t like that the issue will affect the student athletes.

“You tell your players to fight the good fight, to have faith, to do the right thing, and even though you do everything you can, somebody else’s incompetency screws you over,” Bridge said.

That said, Bridge is confident that the players on his team can play anywhere.

“I think our kids, with the right mindset, could walk into Olympic Stadium, and walk into Montesano’s Jack Rottle Field, and they’ll do fine,” Bridge said. “That’s not the issue. The issue’s not about wins and losses. The issue’s about, for a lack of better terms, about getting screwed over by the system. I’m doing everything right and I’m still getting screwed over. What the hell?”

Thake was at Stewart Field’s construction site a little more than 12 hours after the board meeting adjourned. He said he’ll be there every day to see how the project is moving along.

“They’re really picking up the pace this morning,” Thake said. “(Right now) they’re taking the blacktop out and removing hazardous materials in order to be in compliance and be able to play. It’s an example of when you have an older facility that you don’t know what you have underneath (the surface) until you see it.”

Thake said he was impressed by the presence of the student players who showed up to the board meeting. The students were all Thake thought of once he heard about the “frustrating” construction update. He knows he’s got some work to do.

“I’m going to make some phone calls to FieldTurf in order to get to the bottom of (what caused) the work stoppage, and the miscommunication (involved,)” he said. “This affects our entire community. This is where our community hangs its hat.”

Thake didn’t have a concrete answer on if the timeline can be accelerated enough in order to host those two home games.

“I can’t make any guarantees based on the information we received (July 19,)” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can in my power. I just don’t know what the end date will be. But, I think I owe it (to the community) to be the squeaky wheel.”