Proponents for synthetic turf sports fields at New Milford High School celebrated a small victory in their quest this week.

The Board of Education facilities subcommittee approved support Tuesday for soil testing and site evaluation on the multi-purpose field and main practice field at the high school.

The condition?

The Town Council must approve funding the study and future decisions to install artificial turf on the fields.

The facility subcommittee's decision would be presented Tuesday, June 10 to the Board of Education, after the Town Council has had a chance to act.

"I think it's fantastic news," said Patrick Murphy, a youth soccer and basketball coach in town. "This has been long awaited and highly anticipated in the sports community.

"It will have such an impact for the kids," he added, "having turf fields."

"This is a great move in the right direction for New Milford High School," said Dawn Hough, longtime coach of the high school field hockey team. "It would be a huge improvement to the school system to have synthetic turf fields and the heart of education is sports."

Louis Alhage has helped spearhead the coordinated effort to bring synthetic turf fields to the high school. He has met with the Board of Education, the Town Council and now the facilities subcommittee.

"We need this approval as the first step in approaching the Town Council for funding for the entire project from the Waste Management settlement fund," Alhage said. "We go before the Town Council again Monday."

The Milone & MacBroom consulting firm has been chosen by Alhage and his fellow turf field advocates to conduct the soil testing and site evaluation.

"I think we should have bonded for turf fields when we built the high school," said Bob Coppola, a member of the board's facilities subcommittee. "I'm all in support of this."

Alhage said quotes he has received for both proposed synthetic turf fields range from $1.2 million to $1.4 million.

The town's Waste Management settlement fund has a balance of $7.56 million.

The fund, created in the late 1990s, is intended for open space preservation and other projects that would enhance the quality of life in New Milford.

Pete Bass, the Town Council vice president, asked Mayor Pat Muprhy to open a dialogue with Board of Education chairwoman Danielle Shook about the fields and to bring the discussion back to the council.

"I'm hoping you can have the (education) board help us in coming up with a solution," Bass said during a March council meeting.

Alhage and other supporters of synthetic turf fields to the high school cite some studies that show a lower incident of injuries for players on turf over natural grass fields.

Studies are available that both favor and disfavor synthtic turf fields.

While studies cited by the Synthetic Turf Council found "a lower risk of ankle injuries on turf" they also found "no significant difference in the nature of overuse injuries for youth (soccer) players" between playing on natural grass or turf fields.

These studies were from the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science Sports.

Other studies cited by the Synthetic Turf Council cited no health hazards from inhalation of vapors rising from crumb rubber used in synthetic turf fields.

These studies were from the California Environmental Protection Agency, Connecticut Department of Public Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322