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


John Milardo said...

I understand all the negotiating after the fact, but for the life of me I don't get why you would have a commission determine AFTER the bond vote what gets done and when? A commission should have been already been in place with a completed project package with timeframe of completion for the public to vote on.
This is how we get into problems with bonding projects! Water & Sewer anyone?!

John Milardo said...

Food for thought. Where are these new natural turf fields going to be built? If they are Board of Education property, we have an inherent issue when daily maintenance can be performed - and it is understandable.
BOE requests any mowing or field work be done when the children are not out on the property for gym, recess, or other activities during the day, for safety reasons. Additionally, if the sites are too close to the school building BOE feels the noise from the machinery creates a diversion and annoyance for classroom studies. Just keep this in mind if new fields are to considered to be constructed on BOE property.
And the number one (#1) consideration and issue with this entire Bond, which I cannot stress enough is the lack of Park department personnel. If it is not properly addressed, this entire project will be a huge waste of taxpayer money! You think the leagues are complaining now! Wait until you spend $35 million and the entire project goes to **** a couple of years down the road.