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Boeheim speaks during J-D High School turf field debate; school board approves shorter field pending lawyer approval

The debate over a new turf field drew a packed house to the Jamesville-DeWitt school board meeting on Monday night, and a hall of fame coach voiced his opinion over the issue.
DeWitt (WSYR-TV) - The debate over a new turf field drew a packed house to the Jamesville-DeWitt school board meeting on Monday night, and a hall of fame coach showed up to share his opinion.

A community group has spent months fundraising, hoping to score enough cash for a new 210-foot turf field.  But, they fell short of that goal, instead offering to pay for a 195-foot field.

"This turf field will make J-D better. I'm embarrassed when I go out there and watch a football game at my field. I'm embarrassed," said Jim Boeheim, a parent in the Jamesville-DeWitt School District.

Parents like coach Boeheim didn't pull any punches as news spread that the donation to the school district for a smaller field was in limbo. A facilities committee determined that a few teams preferred the larger option, raising questions of fairness to athletes across the board.

"Can all our kids play on a 195-foot field?  Yes, they could do that. Would that make some of our programs unhappy? Yes, it would," said Jamesville-DeWitt School Board Vice President Virginia Murphy.

There is one major problem. Members of the fundraising committee don't think they can raise another half-a-million bucks or more to cover that cost. They want the district to use the cash and pledges that they've already secured to approve a smaller field now, with hope for more upgrades down the road.

"Let's get out of the mud. Let's get out of slogging around, making it unsafe for our children to practice on the fields that we have now," said Kevin Hulslander, with the Jamesville-DeWitt turf campaign.

The debate sparked a heated exchange that filtered into the hallway at times, where parents who couldn't fit inside the small meeting room were gathered.

Board members insisted that some people had the wrong impression that they'd already turned down the gift for a scaled-down field.

"We want to make sure that it is a gift that is successful. I don't think you can argue with that,” said Jamesville-DeWitt School Board member Douglas Wilson.  

The turf field would require regular maintenance, which Wilson said taxpayers would have to fund.

Not all of the money for the new field is in the bank, as much of the funds raised have simply been pledged. An estimated $1.2-million is needed for a 195-foot field. Leaders of the fundraising group say they have about $700,000 in the form of cash and pledges.  Another chunk of the funding comes from in-kind services.  At least $250,000 still needs to be raised, sparking an impromptu joke from the sidelines.

"We go undefeated, I'll pay for the whole thing," Boeheim said with a smirk, burying his face in his hands as the crowd laughed and pointed to cameras in the room that had recorded the comment. He later noted the team hasn't had that record for decades.

With the turf project hanging in the balance and pressure in the room mounting, a board member made a motion to vote on a shorter turf field.  Vice President Murphy asked that any agreement include a review and approval by the school district's lawyer.  The motion passed unanimously.

The timeline is unclear.  The fundraising group insists they can get the money together quickly.  The school superintendent said it takes about four months just to get all the necessary paperwork in order for the state's approval.
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