City Desk

Did Posh Maret School Get a Sweetheart Deal From D.C.?

Allow LL to direct your attention to Jelleff Branch Boys & Girls Club in upper Georgetown. The Current has done some (offline) reporting on this story, and the Georgetown Metropolitan follows up with an excellent post today.

As you may recall, last spring the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington announced that due to financial pressures, they would have to close four branches. City officials scrambled to arrange a bailout; a deal was cut in June and closed last week in which the city is paying the Boys & Girls Clubs $20 million for three facilities, including Jelleff.

OK, fair enough: The city has an interest in maintaining programs and sees these clubs as a good use of taxpayer money. But Jelleff is also subject to another deal. City agencies have also inked an agreement with the posh Maret School in Woodley Park. Under that deal, Maret would spend up to $2.5 million to renovate the Jelleff facilities–installing an artificial turf field to replace the current mudbowl—in exchange for more-or-less exclusive access thereto for 10 years.

What's potentially wrong with this?

Well, Maret was already using the Jelleff field but they weren't the only ones—both the British School of Washington and Stoddert Soccer are frequent users. And there seems to be no indication that there was any sort of competitive process at work here.

As Georgetown Metropolitan puts it, "this was essentially a sole source contract." Perhaps the city got a got deal from Maret, but perhaps not. Perhaps the city and the facilities' users would have been better served by a different arrangement. Who knows?

As it stands, this looks to be another instance of the Fenty Doctrine: Do it. Do it now. Delay is weakness.

Another good point raised by GM: "[A]rtificial turf is normally only good for about ten years. By the time Maret's easement expires, the fields will need to be replaced again. The primary beneficiary of Maret's spending will be Maret itself....But in the end we just don't know what the best choice for us would be since the deal was struck in complete secrecy without any public notice or opportunity to comment."

LL will be following up.

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  • noodlez

    AS LONG AS FAGGIE FENTY'S NAME IS NOT ON THE FIELD AND CHILDREN HAVE A SAFE PLAYING SURFACE IM OKAY WITH IT.

    OH AND BANNEKER IS NOT INVOLVED AND IT GOES UP THE PROPER CHAIN!

  • http://www.synturf.org Kbear

    It would be important to find out the details. Artificial turf indeed wears out and becomes unsafe in 5- 10 years (sooner if not well maintained) and must be replaced at a cost of half a million to a million dollars to replace, again and again and ......into perpetuity. And there is no going back- once the tons of soil have been carted away and tons of rocks carted in - it is almost impossible to go back to grass. is a literal wasteland- a thin plastic shag rug on a thick base of rocks, with 2 inches or less of pulverized used tire crumb swept between the blades.

    So what about grass then? It is much cheaper in both the short and long term to install even the most premium well constructed grass field (bermuda grass best in this area) with underground drainage and using captured stormwater for irrigation if needed, as is done in many parts of the country. If maintained smartly (especially organically the 21st century way) a well constructed grass field will be durable and last practically forever with minor repairs and renovations. The problem with grass fields is that they are seldom installed well and are maintained badly - so just being SMART and spending a little more - but still much less than plastic turf, is the answer.

    At any rate - the deal with Maret is just handing the city a black money pit for millions of dollars every 5-10 years. Oh and if they want to use it in the summer? The dark plastic and black crumb rubber heat up to inhumanly high temperatures in the sun (I have measured almost 170 deg F on one 93 deg day this August on the Blair high school field SIlver Spring) when grass was about air temp and even surrounding asphalt was much cooler). Is that what we need in the city? More asphalt and a huge heat generating wasteland where cooling and oxygen generating grass could be? A bad deal? You bet.

  • downtown rez

    The other problem with grass is that it must be rested. If it is played on every day it cannot be maintained. Bare patches develop and compacted/eroded earth resists reseeding- Even if the field were rested for the weeks and months it takes for grass to sprout and establish itself on bare compacted eroded dirt.

  • noodlez

    Kbear I FEEL WHAT U ARE SAYIN BUT downtown rez IS RIGHT. THAT IS THE REASON THEY WANT TO GO TO A TURF FIELD BECAUSE ITS CHEAPER TO MAINTAIN AND GRASS WILL WEAR OUT ON A CONSISTANT BASIS.

  • Downtown rez

    Thanks, Noodlez.

    I do like turf- who doesn't?- but turf is a real luxury because all DC fields are in such high demand that they are difficult maintain. It comes down to too many feet on too little space for too much time.

  • Typical DC BS

    It's definitely a tough call (i.e. turf vs. grass). City fields get so much use that grass is almost impossible to maintain long-term (and DC government can't always be depended upon to do a top-notch maintenance program long-term). Turf is a better choice for most city fields, if maintained regularly.

    But there's no way that Maret should be the only user for that field.

  • Downtown rez

    Right. I should have written "I do like NATURAL turf". Oh well.

  • Anybody but Fenty

    Thanks for following this story. It's frustrating that the Fenty Administration uses public dollars to acquire real estate and then treats that property as their own to give away however they see fit, with no accountability to the public.

  • really now

    The money was used to preserve programs and facilities to serve District residents. The Jelleff field was not given to Maret. Yes, the school does get priority use of the field, but they should if they are investing millions to benefit the surrounding community.

    I doubt any other organization could offer a deal comparable to Maret's or they would have when the Boys & Girls' Club announced their intent to sell in the spring.

    The deal doesn't say that the other organizations cannot use the field at all. It simply says the Maret has priority during certain hours. All other times, it's open for everyone. Even in the summer, when Maret has NO use of the field and when outdoor sports are at its peak.

  • To really

    No "really now" they are investing millions to benefit themselves. If they owned the land they'd still spend the money and still use it about as much as they plan to use Jellef's fields. Basically the city has taken away from Maret that pesky need to buy the land. There's a reason Maret got negged by two other community centers before this: it's a bad deal.

    Besides, organized outdoor sports don't peak in the Summer. They peak in the spring and fall.

  • downtown rez

    To: To really:
    If the city had sold the Jellef land to Maret people would be up in arms over the disposal of public land.
    This isn't that, it's a develop/maintain for rights deal.

  • Denis James

    I'd like to correct the statement that Maret was already using the Jelleff field. That is not the case, and as the Jelleff Board President, I'm in a position to know. The field is heavily scheduled. Maret's use would mean an early end to the British School's time on the field, and bump Stoddert Soccer after shcool practice into a later slot that would require lights to be installed. It may also bump Stoddert games to Sundays from Saturdays, and that would bump WYLAX/Breakout Lacrosse off the schedule completely.
    So there are definitely winners and losers here.
    I agree wholeheartedly that this is another DC back-room deal that won't stand the light of day.

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