Edmonds School Board says no to joint meeting with City Council on crumb rubber

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Diana White
School Board President Diana White

The Edmonds School Board has declined an invitation for a joint meeting with the Edmonds City Council next Tuesday, Aug. 4 to discuss the tire crumb rubber infill being installed at the former Woodway High School.

In an email to Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas Wednesday night, School Board President Diana White said she would “respectively decline” on behalf of the school board. White noted that the board, Superintendent Nick Brossoit and school district staff have “honored your prior requests to meet and discuss the field improvements at former Woodway High School. Over the course of two separate meetings, we have met with six of the seven city council members to discuss the project.”

At the Tuesday, July 28 council meeting, Councilmember Joan Bloom urged Fraley-Monillas to schedule a joint meeting with the school board and the Verdant Health Commission, prior to the council making a decision regarding a proposed Interlocal Agreement between the city and the school district to operate the fields.

Since March, parents and students attending nearby Edmonds Heights K-12 school, project neighbors and environmentalists, have made regular appearances at city council and school board meetings to express their opposition to the crumb rubber infill — a commonly used surface made from recycled tire crumbs, which is made from recycled tires that contain known carcinogens.

The Woodway fields poject is being developed through an interlocal agreement between the City of Edmonds, the Edmonds School District and the Verdant Health Commission. Work has already begun on phase one of the three-phase sports complex, after project opponents were unsuccessful in convincing the school district to delay action on the project.

The fields are scheduled to be available for use by local select and recreational sports teams starting this fall.

The project is also facing a court challenge from Edmonds resident Mark Wall, who will appear in Snohomish County Superior Court this Friday, July 31 for a preliminary hearing on his appeal to overturn the Edmonds City Council’s land use decision regarding the property. Wall has asked the court to deny the requested permits for the project located off 100th Avenue West in the Westgate neighborhood. Edmonds School District attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss Wall’s legal action.

In her email to Fraley-Monillas Tuesday night, White reiterated her opinion that the school board “did our due diligence” when making a decision to install the crumb rubber surface on the Woodway fields.

“We devoted several board meetings to hearing public comments regarding this issue, from both opponents and supporters of the project,” White wrote. “We engaged in an extensive discussion at our April 21, 2015 study session, including a presentation by the industrial hygienist hired by the district to produce an independent literature review regarding the current state of scientific research on infill materials, specifically crumb rubber. Her report supported a conclusion that SBR Crumb rubber infill does not pose an elevated health risk.”

The decision to use the crumb rubber represents “the best and most prudent use of taxpayer dollars to construct fields with demonstrated sustainability over time,” she added.

Here is the complete text of White’s email:

July 29, 2015

President Fraley-Monillas,

On behalf of the Edmonds School Board, I respectfully decline your request from the City Council to attend the August 4th council meeting. The Edmonds School Board, along with the Superintendent and district staff, has honored your prior requests to meet and discuss the field improvements at former Woodway High School. Over the course of two separate meetings, we have met with six of the seven city council members to discuss the project.

The Edmonds School Board has the ultimate authority to decide on the construction of the fields, including the infill materials. The School Board did our due diligence when making this decision. We devoted several board meetings to hearing public comments regarding this issue, from both opponents and supporters of the project. We engaged in an extensive discussion at our April 21, 2015 study session, including a presentation by the industrial hygienist hired by the district to produce an independent literature review regarding the current state of scientific research on infill materials, specifically crumb rubber. Her report supported a conclusion that SBR Crumb rubber infill does not pose an elevated health risk.

At our May 12, 2015 Board meeting, we voted 4-1 in favor of SBR crumb rubber fields to be installed at the former Woodway High School site. As a part of this vote, we took into consideration the five cities and unincorporated Snohomish County we represent, including 20,000 students and 4,000 student athletes, and the need for more all-weather play fields. We also considered the best and most prudent use of taxpayer dollars to construct fields with demonstrated sustainability over time.

The fields are scheduled to be completed in September. At this point, the remaining item between the Edmonds School District and the City of Edmonds regarding these fields is an Interlocal Agreement (ILA), outlining the $500,000 previously pledged by the City, as well as the outline for joint use, scheduling and maintenance. Traditionally, Interlocal Agreements (including past and present ILA’s with the City of Edmonds) have been negotiated by district and city staff, with legal input, for the school board and the affected municipalities to review and approve. A meeting between the city council and the school board, in this instance, using the ILA as a means to change the type of infill to something other than SBR, would not be a constructive use of our time. The infill decision was made in May and the district is moving forward with the project. We hope the City of Edmonds decides to move ahead with us as partners.

If you need more information supporting the Board’s decision, we encourage you to contact Bob Harding and the field turf consultants who have extensive knowledge of the construction of these fields. We also encourage you to review both the report prepared by the industrial hygienist, as well as the Gradient report commissioned by Verdant, both of which support the conclusion that the scientific literature does not demonstrate an elevated health risk from crumb rubber. If you need access to this information, please contact Stewart Myhre, the district’s head of business and operations.

The Edmonds School Board wishes to maintain a good working relationship with the City of Edmonds. This project is independent of any ongoing or future projects, as you have heard Superintendent Brossoit and members of the Board confirm. We look forward to our continued negotiations on this project.

Respectfully,
Diana White
President Edmonds School Board

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