Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Opinion: Artificial Turf with "Organic" Infill Still a Costly Risk to our Children and the Environment

Dear Mayor Drew and Members of the Common Council,

I am concerned about the recent flurry of activity associated with revisiting the parks improvement bond language. I want to make it clear that those of us who spoke out against artificial turf at last week's hearing do not support any form of artificial turf, including artificial turf with "organic" infill. 

As mentioned by some who oppose artificial turf at the hearing, the alternative infills have not been tested independently, so it is not known whether they are safe relative to traditional crumb rubber infill, nor is it known what the long term impacts to players may be. Further, any form of artificial turf is still composed of plastic blades of grass, which result in "turf burn" injuries and unsafe high surface temperatures. 

The environmental concerns associated with converting pervious natural grass fields to impervious plastic artificial surfaces would be the same, no matter what the infill.  

Use of artificial turf fields would also limit the use of fields intended for public use and supported by public funds. When converted to artificial turf, they would no longer be available for use by members of the public for activities other than sanctioned organized team sports. 

Last but not least, the cost of artificial turf, would be exorbitant, even more so with "organic" infill. From what I understand, the infill composed of coconut fiber costs nearly three times as much as crumb rubber infill, about $50,000 more per field, and would have a lifespan of 2-3 years instead of the 8-10 year lifespan of the rubber crumbs. The huge expense--for initial installation, and disposal and replacement--would be an unnecessary expense that should not be borne by the City's taxpayers. 

Should artificial turf re-enter the equation as far as the parks improvement bond is concerned, you can be sure that I would not support the referendum and would lobby heavily against it, as I believe would be the case for others opposing artificial turf. 

Again, we should "Play it Safe" where our children, the environment and limited financial resources are concerned, and improve our playing fields by making the switch to affordable and safe organically maintained natural grass fields.

Jane Brawerman 

Note: This letter was sent to the Mayor and Common Council on Sept. 1, 2015, by Jane Brawerman, Middletown resident, parent, environmental professional, and member of the Conservation Commission. As a point of clarification, the"organic" infill referred to in the letter is a plant-based infill made of coconut fiber and cork.

Consulting Firm Confirms Mayor's Compromise Plan For Playing Fields

Last week the Common Council, in a very close vote, decided to change a bond referendum to eliminate synthetic turf fields. After changing the language, the Council unanimously approved sending the $37M to the ballot so that residents could decide. Usually, once a vote has been taken, the Council moves on to other business, but Councilman Tom Serra, who voted against the change to the language, signaled that he wanted a chance to do the vote over again.

Mayor Drew proposed a compromise plan that would increase the number of fields but leave all of them as natural grass. Today, he released a letter from the consulting firm hired by the city to evaluate the city's parks and recreation facilities. The letter buttresses the feasibility of Drew's compromise for the bond referendum.

Milone and MacBroom confirmed the mayor's contention that the city can save $3.5M by foregoing synthetic turf. They also wrote that 6 additional fields would satisfy all of the demand for playing surfaces in the city.

In releasing the letter, Drew wrote, "This approach saves the taxpayers millions of dollars, meets athletic league capacity, and preserves a grass approach to field construction. Our parks bond has dozens of incredibly important, once-in-a-generation improvements and this compromise ensures that the entire community's needs are met."

The Common Council is meeting at 6PM on Wednesday, September 2nd, to re-consider the Bond Referendum.

Final Concert in the 2015 Summer Sounds Series Tonight featuring the Middletown Symphonic Band at Harbor Park Pavilion

This final performance of the 2015 Summer Sounds will take place in Harbor Park at the pavilion located just south of the Mattabesett Canoe Club (for those directionally challenged, that would be the pavilion between the Canoe Club and the crew/rowing building). There is limited parking right there at the pavilion.

The City Arts Office/MCA present the annual Summer Sounds series on Tuesdays at Harbor Park from July 7 through September 1. The shows begin at 7 p.m., there's plenty of parking in the Municipal parking lot at Melilli Plaza (it's free after 7 p.m.). From the parking lot, it's a short walk to the park via the Harbor Park pedestrian tunnel.

Here's this year's last show!

Sept. 1
Middletown Symphonic Band - popular tunes

Date:  Sep 1 2015
Time: 7:00 pm

Labor Day Weekend at The Buttonwood Tree

Labor Day Weekend at The Buttonwood Tree

Friday, September 4

The Dr. Steve Band

"Mind-bending, Original Groove Music"

8pm, $10

Noted for it's catchy grooves, trippy lyrics and top-notch musicianship, The Dr. Steve Band is fronted by psychologist/singer/songwriter Steven Prasinos. He writes "songs that make you think, laugh and cry (Hi5NetTV)." Mike Gieralt plays lead guitar, Gary Gieralt is on bass and Eugene Zampieron provides percussion. There will be foot tapping, soul searching and belly laughing. Come hear "The Duck in the Truck and the Cow in the Now," "Twisted Men," and "My Third Eye."
For more information go to drstevesongs.com.

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Saturday, September 5


"Gypsy Flamenco Swing"

8pm, $12

The New Hampshire trio Ameranouche (pronounced ‘uh-Mare-uh-noosh') features two European designed and built acoustic jazz guitars and an upright bass, and is a winner of the “Best of New Hampshire Acoustic Act“ award as well as being veterans of the famed Newport Jazz Festival. The group tours nationally, year-round, and has released five albums of largely original music in a style they call ‘Gypsy Flamenco Swing.'This rip-roaring ensemble is a super-force of hot acoustic Gypsy inspired music, mixing flamenco, bebop, Philly soul, traditional Turkish and jazz swing influences, producing music that is rhythmic, vigorous, passionate and elegant.Ameranouche's brand new CD, Sun Shine Soul, is a collection of originals and interpretations that reflect their many musical influences, all done in their Gypsy Flamenco Swing hybrid style.
Learn more here: www.ameranouche.com


Weekly Events at The Buttonwood Tree

Weekly Events at The Buttonwood Tree

Tuesday, September 1

6pm Laughter Yoga (Donations Welcomed)

Come laugh, relax, and improve your health!

7pm Vegetarian Potluck

Thursday, September 3

5-7pm Art Walk

September's art show is A Cat's Life: Charcoal Works by Dave Kopperman and Kate Ten Eyck Drawings from the animated short film "Don Henley."  To preview some of these charcoal pieces and Kopperman's music (he will play at Buttonwood on September 11) check out the music video:

7pm Acoustic Open Mic with Bob Gotta ($5)

Every First Thursday of every month, Bob Gotta hosts acoustic open mic. Sign-up starts at 6:30. 
Bring your own instrument or play our piano or congas. 
Come play and be heard!


September Events at Russell Library

Russell Library is a hub of activity this September.
September marks the start of the school year, and Russell Library is reflecting that same energy. In addition to our children's programming, our reading and writing groups, and the beginning of the monthly Friends' Book Sales, we've got some special events planned!
September 12th at 2:00 p.m.:  Jazz Up Close Resonant Motion, Inc. and series curator Noah Baerman presents the third of four installments in the 2015 Jazz Up Close series. Renowned drummer and composer Victor Lewis will be featured in a trio with bassist Henry Lugo and pianist Noah Baerman.
September 15th at noon: We begin the first of our film discussion series. This series is entitled, Pre-Code Hollywood: Sin on the Silver Screen, featuring four films that were made before the censorship system was instituted in 1934. The first film is "One Hour With You" from 1932.

September 15th, 6:30 - 7:45 p.m.: We are privileged to be part of the New England tour of a Mexican puppet company called Facto Teatro. Along with New York City-based Great Small Works and German puppeteer Barbara Steinitz, the troupe will perform Three Toy Theater Tales: A Puppet Show for family audiences. Thanks goes to La Boca Restaurant and Cantina for donating dinner to the performers!
September 17th, 6:30 - 7:30 p.m.: Award winning dancer/choreographer Eiko Otake will be performing A Body in a Library as part of her solo series, “The Body in Places” in the public spaces of Russell Library. A discussion with the audience follows the performance. 


Greenskies to Build Solar Installation on Wesleyan Campus

A Greenskies press release. Robert Landino, owner of Centerplan Construction, is chairman of the Greenskies board.
The ground-mounted solar array will be built at the corner of Long Lane and Wadsworth Road on the Wesleyan campus, where it will produce 1.2 million kilowatt hours of clean renewable electricity per year.

"We are proud to be partnering with Wesleyan on this initiative," said James Desantos, Greenskies' vice president of business development. "As a leader in sustainability since the 1980s, Wesleyan's vision and efforts to create a sustainable campus are unparalleled and we are excited to be a partner in this endeavor."

Greenskies was awarded the project based on the results of a competitive bidding process. The new solar PV array will work in collaboration with two existing natural gas co-generation facilities on the Wesleyan campus and will supply power directly to the university's existing micro-grid. The plan also calls for several campus buildings that are not currently part of the micro-grid system to be tied into the network.

"We are excited to partner with Greenskies on this project, which will take us closer toward our goal of a carbon neutral campus," said John Meerts, Wesleyan's vice president for Finance and Administration. "The new solar array will help us reduce costs while increasing our energy self-reliance, together with our two natural gas co-generation facilities."

Wesleyan and Greenskies will enter into a power-purchase agreement, where Greenskies will design, develop, finance, own, and maintain the solar installation for the next 20 years at no cost to the university while Wesleyan agrees to purchase 100 percent of the electricity produced at the site at a significantly discounted rate.

Greenskies will start construction in the spring of 2016 and is anticipating that the project will be completed by Sept. 1, 2016.

Greenskies is a 7-year-old company that designs, builds and maintains solar photovoltaic systems for corporate clients, municipalities and government agencies, educational institutions and utilities throughout the United States. Solar installations designed and built by Greenskies have now produced about 40 million kilowatt hours of clean electric power.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Mayor Drew Offers Compromise Language for Parks and Playing Fields Bond Ordinance, Lowers Bond Request

With the prospect of a reconsidered, or revote, on language for a bond ordinance that was voted on by the Common Council last week, Mayor Dan Drew has offered a compromise that allows for the renovation of enough fields to provide adequate playing time and space for all leagues, and preserves real grass instead of the proposed artificial turf fields.

Council member Tom Serra, voted against an amendment to the ordinance eliminating artificial turf fields from language in the bond ordinance, recently proposed a re-vote at the next scheduled Common Council meeting.  Drew's compromise anticipates the reconsideration, and also calls for a reduction in the total cost of the bond request.  Below find the compromise language Drew sent to Council members this morning:

Good morning councilmembers,
There has been constructive discussion this week regarding how we balance a natural grass approach to field construction with the growing demand for those fields amongst the sports programs. I am writing today to share with you a compromise that will increase field capacity, keep grass fields, and save taxpayers money from the original proposal.
As you are aware, designing and building grass fields is less expensive than turf, which begged the question of whether it would be appropriate to request a bond authorization that included funds for artificial turf fields when that additional money wasn’t necessary.
Additionally, one of the benefits of turf fields was the ability to meet higher demand from our athletic community. The parks bond proposal — even with its amendment requiring the use of grass only — provides a variety of benefits beyond new athletic fields of which we should not lose sight: new walkways, new ¼ mile track, tennis courts, bike trails, playgrounds, splash pads, a public pool, new crew docks, and a variety of other improvements throughout the city. This is a once-in-a-generation project that will benefit our children and theirs for decades to come.
The concern from some following the vote to remain with grass fields was that the supply and demand problem we currently face would not be alleviated by simply reconstructing the existing nine fields mentioned in the report.
I would be loathe to jeopardize all of the public benefits in this plan by asking for a bond authorization higher than what would be necessary to carry out those improvements.
Therefore, I am calling a special meeting of the Common Council at 6 p.m., on Wednesday, September 2, 2015 to consider and act upon the following:
1. A reduction in the bond ordinance from $36.95 million to $33.45 million. This is a savings of $3.5 million. The reduction to this number was recommended by Milone and Macbroom — the engineering firm that conducted the parks study.

2. The inclusion in the bond ordinance of language that gives us the ability to add new grass fields on any public or school property deemed appropriate by a building committee. Milone and Macbroom believes we can build up to six additional grass fields that will enable us to meet our demand while saving $3.5 million.

3. A revision to the resolution authorizing a referendum question to reflect the aforementioned changes.
This means that we can build more grass fields than turf fields to meet demand and do so for less money. These changes will do three major things that will benefit our community:
1. Save the taxpayers $3.5 million in bonded debt
2. Give us up to six additional playing fields, which Milone and Macbroom says will meet the capacity needs of our leagues
3. Enable us to ensure that all fields are grass and that they are properly constructed with appropriate drainage and irrigation systems that will make the maintenance process easier and less expensive in the long run
We will have more grass fields for less money, ensuring that our parks bond is environmentally and fiscally sustainable while meeting and exceeding the needs of our community’s sports leagues.
Meeting warrants will be forthcoming this afternoon. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Mayor Daniel Drew

Opinion: Some City Fields Should Be Artificial Turf

From Darrell Ponzio, city resident. 

The Study and Recommendations

In April 2015, at the request of the City of Middletown’s Public Works Department, Milone & MacBroom provided a thorough analysis of the City’s parks and recreation facilities.  There are three components to the study:  1) an analysis of the existing conditions at each facility, 2) a demand analysis, and 3) recommendations for improving the facilities.  This effort was commissioned to support an anticipated bonding referendum for a program that has two overall goals:  
  1. To thoughtfully and with appropriate vision, build a capital improvement program that would offer the city’s residents modern, useable, maintainable and sustainable park and recreational facilities.
  2. To provide sufficient facilities for all athletic programs, inclusive of practices and games, now and in the future, as appropriate to each such athletic program.  This would include fields of appropriate size, markings and conditions, with reasonable availability for the various seasons needed.
A common theme in the current-state analysis was that the rectangular fields and diamonds are overused; resulting in compaction, weed growth and large bare/dirt areas.  The conclusions of the study are many with specific recommendations for each identified facility.  Among the many recommendations, a keystone to the overall study is the recommendation for new artificial turf installation and natural turf renovations as follows:
  1. Lawrence School – natural turf renovation of the multi-use and softball fields.
  2. Moody School – natural turf renovation of the baseball ball and 1 softball field.  Installation of artificial turf for the rectangular field and the 2nd softball field that will add an “overlay” rectangular field.  Both artificial turf fields are lighted with existing field lights.
  3. Snow School – natural turf renovation of all existing fields.
  4. Wesley School – natural turf renovation of all existing fields.
  5. Woodrow Wilson & Pat Kidney - installation of artificial turf fields for Pat Kidney and Woodrow Wilson, to accommodate baseball, softball and a rectangular “overlay” field at Pat Kidney and a rectangular multi-use field at Woodrow Wilson.  All fields would be lighted.
  6. Hubbard Park – installation of artificial turf on both baseball fields.
  7. Smith Park – natural turf renovation of the baseball and rectangular fields.
  8. Country Club Road Complex – natural turf renovation of 1 field and artificial turf installation at two rectangular fields.
  9. Long Hill Road Complex – natural turf renovation of the two existing fields.
  10. McCutcheon Park – natural turf renovation of the existing baseball, softball and rectangular “overlay” fields
As shown above, the recommendations offer a balance of natural and artificial playing surfaces to ensure the city can meet the demand for field hours with accommodations that can stand up to the volume of usage expected.  It should be noted that the study does not recommend the creation of any new fields or facilities.  This is because the combination of artificial and natural turf facilities would accommodate the current and future demands of all the city’s athletic programs’ demands.  Critical to understand is that the each artificial turf field yields between 2 and 4 times as much available playing time as natural turf fields.  According a Montgomery County Turf Report in 2011, “…even under the most conservative assumptions, an artificial turf field provides hours of use equivalent to approximately 3 natural grass fields.  In other words, to achieve the same programming benefit of one artificial turf field, three natural turf fields would have to be build and maintained.”  This is because artificial turf fields require no “rest”, mowing, watering, fertilizing, aerating, or lining at any time.  They can be used during and immediately after rain events, and they are lined for all sports that may possibly use the field, which allows for immediate transition from one sport to another on any given day.

Common Council Vote and Impacts to Improvement Program

On Monday August 24, 2015 at the regularly schedule Common Council meeting, the Council was slated to vote on the bond legislation with a planned referendum in the November 2015 election.  At the meeting, a group of approximately 25 environmentally conscious residents offered their opinions on health concerns of artificial turf fields.  In particular, the concerns centered around the potential for cancer-causing agents in the crumb rubber infill used on artificial turf fields.  A proposal was put forth to alter the bond language to specifically exclude any artificial turf fields from the program.  The motion was seconded and voted to a tie.  Following procedure, the Mayor had to cast the deciding vote in favor of the motion.  

Unfortunately, this entire process was conducted without ensuring that the Council members and Mayor had all the necessary factual information at hand.  Even more unfortunately, the vote hog-ties the City and the Public Works Department by prohibiting the option to use artificial turf fields – and this effectively nullifies the most important benefit of the entire program, which is to build a set of facilities that can accommodate the demands of all the city’s recreational and athletic programs now and in the future.

Health Concerns – Fact and Emotion

In October 2014, NBC News published reports on safety concerns related to the crumb rubber infill on artificial turf fields using an informal set of observations from a soccer coach at the University of Washington.  The coach identified an alarming trend that correlated frequent use (and in particular rolling around on) turf fields with increased risk of certain cancers.  This kind of concern understandably hits home with all parents, including me.  Many towns, schools and colleges looking to renovate and improve their sports facilities look carefully at artificial turf.  These organizations are fully aware of the health-related concerns as well as the potential legal risks of installing facilities with known (or what can be reasonably known) health risks.  And yet we continue to see artificial turf being installed all around us.  Wesleyan University and Fairfield University both installed new artificial turf fields in the last 18 months.  Here are the facts that have been made available to the City of Middletown’s Common Council, Planning and Zoning and Public Works Departments:
  1. Letter from The Commonwealth of Massachusetts to Health Department of Town of Medway MA, March 2015 – “…the scientific literature continues to suggest that exposure opportunities to artificial turf fields are not generally expected to result in health effects.  Testing results on the crumb rubber infill indicated lead content less than CPSIA statutory limits established for children’s products.  For the turf fibers, APT provided a statement that this material did not have lead used in its manufacture, but no additional documentation was provided…With respect to cancer concerns reported in the media stories, it is important to note that the reports of cancers were of a wide variety of different types, each with its own set of risk factors.”  The letter does recommend some common sense best practices to minimize any potential exposure including the washing of hands after each event.  This kind of recommendation would be the same for natural turf fields.
  2. State of Connecticut DEEP, Result of State Artificial Turf Fields Study: No Elevated Health Risk, July 2010 – “A new study of artificial turf fields containing crumb rubber infill conducted by four state agencies shows that health risks are not elevated from playing on the fields…The four state agencies, the University of Connecticut Health Center, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, the Department of Public Health and the Department of Environmental Protection evaluated the health and environmental impacts associated with artificial turf fields containing crumb rubber infill.  Overall, approximately 200 chemicals were tested at each field.” 
  3. Artificial Turf Study, Leachate and Stormwater Characteristics, Department of Environmental Protection, July 2010 – “The DEP concludes that there is a potential risk to surface waters and aquatic organisms associated with the whole effluent and zinc toxicity of stormwater runoff from artificial turf fields…the study did not identify any significant risks to groundwater protection criteria in the stormwater runoff from artificial turf fields.”  To mitigate any risks associated with runoff water, the report offers suggested measures to reduce zinc concentrations.
  4. A Scoping-Level Field Monitoring Study of Synthetic Turf Fields and Playgrounds, United States Environmental Protection Agency, November 2009 – “…All Particulate Matter (“PM10”) air concentrations were well below National Ambient Air Quality Standards for PM10.  All concentrations for lead were well below the NAAQS for lead…The average extractable lead concentrations for turf blade, tire crumb infill, and tire crumb rubber were low.  Although there are no standards for lead in recycled tire material or synthetic turf, average concentrations were well below the EPA standard for lead in soil...Likewise the average extractable lead concentrations for turf field wipe samples were low.  Although there are no directly comparable standards, average concentrations were well below EPA standards for lead in residential floor dust.”
  5. EHS Circular Letter #2015-02, Re: Recent News Concerning Artificial Turf Fields, State of Connecticut Department of Public Health, January 20, 2015 – “Various media outlets have continued to run this story and a number of local health departments have inquired as to its validity.  Since many Connecticut towns have installed or are considering artificial turf fields an elevated cancer risk would be an important consideration.  However, this news story is still based upon very preliminary information and does not change CTDPH’s position that outdoor artificial turf fields do not represent an elevated health risk…The Connecticut Department of Public Health has evaluated the potential exposures and risks from athletic use of artificial turf fields.  Our study of 5 fields in Connecticut in 2010-2011 was a comprehensive investigation of releases from the fields during active play.  This study was conducted as a joint project with the CT DEEP and the University of CT Health Center and was peer-reviewed by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.  Our study did not find a large amount of vapor or particle release from the fields confirming prior reports from Europe and the US.  We put these exposures into a public health context by performing a risk assessment. Our risk assessment did not find elevated cancer risk…The Connecticut Department of Public Health has evaluated the potential exposures and risks from athletic use of artificial turf fields.  Our study of 5 fields in Connecticut in 2010-2011 was a comprehensive investigation of releases from the fields during active play.  This study was conducted as a joint project with the CT DEEP and the University of CT Health Center and was peer-reviewed by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.  Our study did not find a large amount of vapor or particle release from the fields confirming prior reports from Europe and the US.  We put these exposures into a public health context by performing a risk assessment. Our risk assessment did not find elevated cancer risk…Our risk assessment did cover carcinogens that are known to be in recycled tires and the crumb rubber used to cushion fields.  Once again, we found there to be very little exposure of any substances, carcinogenic or not, in the vapors and dust that these fields generate under active use, summer conditions.  Background levels of chemicals in urban and suburban air from heating sources and automobile traffic are much more significant sources of airborne carcinogens.  The fact that we sampled 5 fields (4 outdoor and 1 indoor) of different ages and composition suggests that the results can be generalized to other fields, a conclusion supported by the fact that results were similar to what was found in California, USEPA and European studies..  Our study did not evaluate ingestion of the crumb rubber itself as players are unlikely to ingest an entire rubber pellet.  However, two studies, one in California and one at Rutgers University did evaluate the cancer risk if children ingested a mouthable chunk of playground rubber (10 gram), using laboratory extraction methods to estimate the amount of chemicals that might become available in the stomach and absorbed into the body.  Both studies found very low cancer risk from this scenario (Cal OEHHA 2007; Pavilonis et al. 2014).  Thus, CT DPH finds no scientific support for a finding of elevated cancer risk from inhalation or ingestion of chemicals derived from recycled tires used on artificial turf fields.  US EPA has a similar position: “At this point, EPA does not believe that the field monitoring data collected provides evidence of an elevated health risk resulting from the use of recycled tire crumb in playgrounds or in synthetic turf athletic fields.”   “In summary, federal and state authorities have taken seriously the concerns that artificial turf fields may present a health risk due to contaminants in recycled rubber.  The best way to investigate these concerns is via an exposure investigation.  Studies conducted in Connecticut and elsewhere have shown a very low exposure potential, less than from typical outdoor sources of air pollution.  The current news reports of a list of soccer players with cancer does not constitute a correlation or causality and thus raises a concern that currently lacks scientific support.   Thus, the CT DPH position expressed in 2011 at the conclusion of the Connecticut study, that outdoor artificial turf fields do not represent an elevated health risk, remains unchanged.” 

Based on the above sampling of facts provided from a reasonable cross-section of objective health organizations and other governmental agencies and notably devoid of any lobbies or industry groups, one must conclude that the installation and use of artificial turf fields presents health risks to players, coaches and fans that are no greater than natural turf fields.

Conclusions and Recommended Actions

Any actions suggested by City agencies and voted on by the Common Council should have in mind the best interests of the City of Middletown and its residents.  In this case, the Common Council is being shouldered with the responsibility to put forth a referendum to the residents of the City that will fund improvements and renovations to the City’s parks, recreation and athletic facilities such that the City’s residents can enjoy premier facilities that can reasonably be expected to accommodate all current and future demands for use by the City’s many athletic programs.  The vote on Monday August 24th, 2015 to specifically exclude artificial turf fields from the improvement program flies in the face of the recommendations of the Public Works Department and those of Milone & MacBroom.  The vote was purported to address environmental and health concerns that are based on emotion and hearsay.  Although it might be hard to argue the pleasure of using a well manicured and maintained natural turf field, the reality is that offering a sufficient number of such fields, absent the building of a number of additional natural turf fields, is not viable under the existing plan and bonding referendum.  
When considered from a practical and pragmatic perspective, the installation of a balanced number of artificial and natural turf fields, as was the case in original the bond referendum language, is the most beneficial approach to improvements for the City’s parks and athletic facilities.

I call on Mayor Dan Drew and Council Members Bartolotta, Kasper, Kleckowski, Streeto and Santangelo to propose a Request to Reconsider so that the full Council can evaluate the language and vote on legislation that takes into consideration the objectives of the program, the fact-based risks and the impacts to any changes to the original language.  I also ask the Council to fully evaluate the documentation provided by the Planning and Zoning Commission, much of which was referenced in this letter, and to work with appropriate resources to either propose adoption of the originally worded referendum or offer an alternative that would ensure that the original objectives of the program can be met.

Lastly, I call on all City residents to become fully informed of the needs, benefits, and fact-based risks associated with this improvement program.  The $37 million for this proposed program is not a small amount of money.  The benefits to the City go well beyond available playing time to increased property values, increased bond ratings, increased revenue to local businesses and thus increased tax revenues.


Darrell Ponzio

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Small Business Program September 10

From the office of Joe Serra, our city's senior Representative in Hartford.
Rep. Joseph Serra on Friday urged companies to take advantage of a state Labor Department program created to help their businesses flourish and expand.

“If you are a business owner or employer of any size, I want to invite you to the free Middletown Regional Employer Step Up Conference Thursday, Sept. 10, at Middlesex Community College in Middletown,” Serra said.
“As you may be aware, the conference is not a job fair, but a great opportunity for employers of any size, including small businesses, manufacturers, retail, non-profit and faith based organizations to learn more about the numerous state programs that are designed to help grow their businesses,” he said.

This free event, from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. with registration and light refreshments beginning at 7 a.m., will provide valuable information on how your company can take part in the state’s Subsidized Training and Employment (Step Up) programs, Small Business Express, tax incentives, tax credits and more, he said.

Even though the event is free, registration is required. For more information on participating and also being a sponsor, click this link: http://goo.gl/TyjCKT

Friday, August 28, 2015

MxCC Offers Middle School Enrichment Academy and New College Classes at Meriden Center

In a move to expand services at The Meriden Center, Middlesex Community College is opening the Center on Saturdays this fall to offer compelling programs for residents. The College will bring back its popular Middle School Enrichment Academy and will offer college-level credit courses in computer graphics, algebra and American government for interested learners of all ages. Both the academy and the college courses begin September 19th. Enrollment information can be found at www.mxcc.edu or by calling the Meriden Welcome Center at 203-608-3050.

The Middle School Enrichment Academy for high-achieving students was begun several years ago in partnership with the Meriden School district. Last year, the Southington Public School district also participated. This year, MxCC revised the program to offer space for interested, high achieving 6-8th graders from Middletown and all other local towns (including homeschooled and parochial school students). The academy, which runs for five Saturdays, will include new courses on Meriden’s cityscape and architecture, 3D printing, and forensics. Tuition for the program is $200 and classes are held at The Meriden Center from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Availability is limited so interested students are encouraged to contact The Meriden Center as soon as possible.

“While forensics is always a popular topic for middle school kids, our faculty is looking forward to introducing them to the wonders of 3D printing and the importance of local architecture,” Tami Christopher, Meriden Center director, said. “The cityscape class is particularly exciting because it will tie in nicely with all of the economic development taking place in downtown Meriden, demonstrating to students how art and architecture work together to define the places where we live.”

The Saturday morning credit course offerings provide individuals an opportunity to start, continue, or return to college on a part-time basis. Students may also combine the Saturday courses with a weekday schedule to help them progress through a degree or certificate program. Credit courses are held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday beginning September 19 (with no class during the Thanksgiving weekend) through December 12.

“These Saturday courses are a great way for adults to learn new skills, or simply test the waters and see if they are ready to head back to school on a more formal basis,” Christopher said. “Of course, these classes are also a convenient and cost-effective way for current college students to earn credits. In both cases, we are happy to open the Meriden Center for their use and personal development.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Opinion: Healthy Playing Fields are Important for our Children

From Rebecca MacLachlan, resident of our city.
Bravo for Mayor Drew and 5 council members for voting to support the health of our children by removing language from a referendum that would allow for artificial turf playing fields. And, our heartfelt thanks to Councilwoman Mary Bartolotta, who proposed that the referendum specifically be for natural grass playing fields only. Deb Kleckowski, Hope Kasper, Bob Santangelo and James Streeto all voted in favor of keeping toxic plastic artificial grass out of our referendum and out of our children’s sports fields. The referendum that will go before the voters this November represents a better health choice for our children and community.

This is a big step forward for the health of our children and our environment, but we still need to maintain our fields organically without the use of chemicals and pesticides. There have been numerous studies that link many of the pesticides and chemicals put on grass fields to increased risk of asthma, several types cancers, birth defects, reproductive problems, nervous and immune system disorders, liver and kidney damage. Studies have recently shown that even ambient exposure to pesticides has been found to considerably increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Our neighbors in Branford and Cheshire have been successfully maintaining their fields organically for over 8 years. We should follow suit!

We all want to improve our playing fields, but playing sports should be a healthy outlet and not played on fields that can make our kids sick. Support for this referendum, as well as our continued work to go organic, deserves a big yes vote in November.

Rebecca MacLachlan