Tuesday, August 25, 2015

City Fields To Remain Grass After Council Action

The Common Council voted to amend the $37M bond ordinance on park improvements to ensure that the money could not be used to install artificial turf on city fields.  It did so after 25 people spoke against artificial turf during the public comment period of the special meeting.

If passed by voters in November, the bond would fund improvements to city parks recommended by a study commissioned last year by the Council. One of many recommendations was that 9 city fields be replaced with artificial turf. 

Zack Ettinger spoke in favor of artificial turf on behalf of the city's youth soccer league, saying that it provided consistent bounces and a smooth surface for the ball, and would provide players with more time to practice and play, by extending the season.  Others with soccer experience disagreed on the value of predictable ball bounces. Resident Scott Kessel, who has coached at the intercollegiate level, said that the elimination of irregularities would deny children one of life's most important lessons--learning how to deal with irregular bounces.

Mary Bartolotta proposed, and Hope Kasper seconded, the amendment removing the phrase "artificial turf" from the bond ordinance. Gerald Daley argued against this amendment, and offered a substitute that would mandate that the infill of the artificial turf be "organic, plant-derived".  He argued that it was important to allow for multiple options. Bartolotta would have none of it, she felt that leaving options open for artificial turf was not good for residents.    

Sebastian Giuliano argued that even Daley's version of the amendment was unacceptable, he urged that all options be available to those responsible for the fields. He justified this by proclaiming his ignorance, "I don't know enough to know if this stuff is dangerous or is not dangerous." 

Jim Streeto was also strongly opposed to the amendment, but he said he would support it for "political reasons". He was worried that residents would vote down the bond appropriation if it included artificial fields, and he thought the appropriation as a whole was too important, "half a loaf is better than none." 

The city's bond counsel informed the Council that the removal of the phrase "artificial turf" from the ordinance meant that any improvements to city fields would have to be natural grass.

The vote on Bartolotta's amendment was tied 5 to 5, with Bartolotta, Kasper, Deb Kleckowski, Streeto, and Robert Santangelo, voting in favor.

Mayor Dan Drew cast the deciding vote in favor of the amendment.

The underlying resolution to approve the ordinance passed unanimously, and thus voters will decide in November whether to authorize $37M in park improvements that would NOT include artificial turf fields. 


Anonymous said...

I am impressed with the wisdom of the Council's action. Not everyone can appreciate the difference between a crummy cubic zirconium and a genuine diamond!

Anonymous said...

Just a question, but if we are not using artificial turf, then wouldn't the cost be a lot less? What's the need for $37 million?

Unknown said...

I agree the entire budget was based on artificial turf. What now?
Are we going to build new fields with the extra money do we don't continue to over use ours and kill the natural turf?

Unknown said...

Maybe the extra money will be to build new fields so that we don't continue to over use ours, and kill the natural turf.

KM said...

Ideally the Council would have also reduced the bond amount - afterwards a number of them commented on that.

The key will be trust - the amount is authorization only; each project will have to be approved by a building committee or other collection of elected and other indivuals. Less money will likely be spent - no one wants unnecessary bond debt.

The question is - will the voters trust this process and vote yes on the referedum?

Anonymous said...

Shame on those that prey on fear on behalf of being environmentally conscious.

Lieutponz said...

I am extremely disappointed with the process followed and the decision made Monday night. How is it that 25 people suddenly get to represent the entire city. I was away on business and would have come to support the bond ordinance as worded - to neither require not exclude artificial turf fields. It is unbelieveable to me that the Common Council would fly in the face of the good work done by Director Bill Russo and Public Works to develop an objective and well balanced analysis and set of recommendations based on the city's needs and demands for athletic facilities. Would it have been fair to REQUIRE turf fields if I had 26 people show up to argue the many benefits of turf fields? No. If anything, why not have a balance of natural and artificial turf fields? I call on Mayor Drew and the Common Council to re-assess their decision and consider a more balanced approach to this bonding proposal.

Darrell Ponzio

Anonymous said...

The bond should definitely be reduced by the amount projected for the artificial turf. If it's not, I'm not voting in favor. I also would hazard a guess that we have sufficient soccer fields. The problem is everyone wants to use them at the same time. I worked at a state university that decries lack of classroom space. Yet almost all classrooms were empty at 8am and on Fridays.

Anonymous said...

I was watching on TV the other night and can't believe I saw the Superintendent of Schools get up and speak against the Turf Fields. Please Mrs. Charles go to a School we call Middletown High School, go out the back of the school.....walk up the stairs and tell me what you see. I believe it's called Synthetic Turf, of which you are in charge of.........I believe your Football ,Soccer; Track Teams, as well as all the other outside sports Teams play or practice on it.I know I'm not crazy as I attend many football games there. Have you ordered this removed as was asked at the meeting or are you just lost about the stance you are taking?.... And we pay this woman BIG....BIG ...BUCKS WTH?

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

Anon 5:03:

That artificial field was built by a city (not a BOE) building commission. It was built before Pat Charles was superintendent. I think you are likely to see a movement to demolish the field and rebuild with natural grass, now that much of the evidence about the health risks of artificial fields are known. However, because the city regularly underfunds the BOE, to replace the fields, the city will have to come up with the million dollars it takes to demolish and rebuild the field. That will likely be a big fight, and its success is questionable. Jim Streeto may have been feeling defensive when he attacked the Board of Ed and those who testified in favor of natural turf, because it was his committee which commissioned the study and recommended the bond language. And it was his committee which never invited the Board of Ed to the table to discuss the issue. You say you're not crazy, but we can't be sure since we don't know who you are. It's easy to make nasty comments from the safety of anonymity. BTW, in my humble opinion, Pat Charles is not paid enough for all she has done, and all she continues to do for Middletown's schools, its community and its students. My name is Ed, what's yours?

Ed McKeon

Anonymous said...

The BOE never invited anyone to discuss the abomination of the farm hill bus turn around destroying a neighborhood.

Ridge Road Resident said...

I am glad this amendment was added. The health of our communty should take priority over convenience and more playing time. Organic is known not to increase the incidence of cancer. Why should we take any chances?

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

Anon 1:03:

The BOE never invited anyone, because it was a Public Works Department project, just like the artificial turf is. So, now that you mention it, maybe it's Public Works who don't want the public to comment. BTW, my name is Ed. What's yours?

David Sauer said...

I think the council made the right decision, but for the wrong reason. The primary reason the council should not utilize turf fields is the cost. The figures used by the turf industry to argue that the net cost of turf fields is the same or less than grass fields are deceptive at best, and fraud at worst. Take a look at the analysis by the University of Arkansas http://turf.uark.edu/turfhelp/archives/021109.html That study showed that the average annual cost for a turf field over a 16 year period was $65,000 per year. These fields are not maintenance free, they require regular disinfecting, removal of organic matter (skin, sweat, spit, and dog, bird and other animal droppings), irrigation to reduce the temperature of the field, as well as routine in-filling. Even with proper maintenance their lifespan is relatively short, and they must be completely replaced. Forbes magazine also looked at the issue and reached the same conclusions. http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikeozanian/2014/09/28/how-taxpayers-get-fooled-on-the-cost-of-an-artificial-turf-field/

While the higher cost of these fields might be justified for a place like Palmer Field, the idea that we should have 9 of these fields in Middletown is ridiculous. Even if bonding were approved to pay for the installation of the fields I doubt another bonding referendum to replace all the fields in 10 years would go through. What happens then? Unlike grass fields, turf fields in poor condition cannot be used at all and must be closed.