A project to replace natural grass at the Vernon Hills High School football field with an artificial surface is a go with a contribution from the village.
In what represents the final piece of a long fundraising effort, village trustees have informally agreed to contribute $100,000 toward the project.
The village also will allow the discarded turf and topsoil to be deposited on its property nearby, saving the Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 another $38,000.
The village contribution was assembled from savings found in the public works budget spanning two budget years.
"We're looking to break ground May 28. This was fantastic news for us," Vernon Hills Athletic Director Brian McDonald said.
In preparation for a possible donation, the village board two weeks ago had authorized the transfer of funds from public works budgets in 2011-12 and 2012-13 to Project Turf, a volunteer fundraising group soliciting donations. That action was necessary as a bookkeeping measure in advance of the new fiscal year May 1.
On Tuesday, McDonald with District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea and Vernon Hills High School Principal Ellen Cwick reported to the village board that the fundraising effort for the $900,000 project still was short.
"We're about $229,000 away from being able to pay for the whole thing," McDonald said.
With village's decision to provide the monetary and site contribution, the gap was cut to about $91,000.
"The board of education has already agreed they'll use cell tower revenue to cover that shortfall," McDonald said. The board previously had pledged $300,000 to the project -- an amount set aside for turf maintenance.
The village isn't the only public partner. The Vernon Hills Park District also will contribute $100,000 in exchange for the use of Rust-Oleum Field for 24 Sundays in the fall and spring.
Trustee Thom Koch described the contribution as an investment in the community, made easier as the economy has improved and sales tax revenues have grown from recent years.
"I think that's one of the best things we've done since I've been on the board (19 years) was bring a high school to town," he said. "It's become a focal point."
The turf and topsoil has been in place since the field opened in 2002. It will be stripped and replaced with artificial turf, which is expected to last longer and require less maintenance. That will allow for more use of the field, which had been limited because of potential damage.
Rather than paying to have the materials hauled away for disposal, the village will let it be spread on a hill east of the stadium between the wastewater treatment plant and a retention pond. The hill is dubbed "Mount Janulis" for former Vernon Hills athletic director Al Janulis.
The village also is allowing the school to use the pond for runoff, representing another substantial saving, according to McDonald.
"The village has been a huge partner," he said. The work should take about two months and for the first time, football and soccer teams will be allowed to practice on the field.
The next step is to settle on terms of an agreement, to include details such as how the contribution will be dispensed, said Village Manager Mike Allison.