When Mike DeFeo, chairman of the council-appointed , approached the council this week to present his recommendation regarding the installation of synthetic turf at Fontana Field, he wasn’t alone.
The chairman stood before a crowd of athletes and local families representing five different sports as he passed a recommendation to the council that they move to synthetic turf at the football field. His recommendation led to a loud applause from the audience, which filled the .
“I think this shows that this isn’t just about a football field. It won’t be a football field – you look around and there are players here from the soccer teams, the field hock team. They all support this,” said Southington Blue Knights head football coach Mike Drury.
“We would more than welcome new uses and other uses of the field,” he said. “This is something that could bring home CIAC playoff games for these other teams and unity among sports programs at the school. That is an aspect we have been working to build upon.”
DeFeo told the council that all data points to better quality, safer play and long-term savings if the town were to make a move to a synthetic turf surface at Fontana Field. In fact, using what he described as “extremely conservative estimates,” the town would see five times as much activity on the field and save $173,000 over a 10-year period.
The plan in place would also use some of the cost savings, particularly that within maintenance of the field, to begin saving for turf replacement at the end of the cycle.
Despite some accusations that the committee was “rigged” and was set on recommending turf from the start, DeFeo said the recommendation was not one that the committee took lightly. Only after an extensive process did it come to the recommendation, he said.
“We battled for four months, had true committee meetings and discussed all kinds of concerns regarding both turf and field needs,” he said. “In end, we came to a unanimous recommendation and looking at the revenue moving forward in this, we think it’s very important to move forward.”
“I’m glad that we didn’t do this seven years ago. The quality and everything today is more cost efficient,” DeFeo said.
Council members expressed thanks to committee members, but have not taken any official action on turf this week. Instead, Council Chairman Edward Pocock III said there are still a few concerns and some numbers he’d like to see in advance to making any final decisions.
Pocock said he’d like to see the presentation made to, and vetted by, members and more importantly, he wants a complete list of interested companies and projected prices for if the project were included today.
“When this list was made, we could be looking at prices that were quoted from one year ago. We need to have more direct numbers of exactly what it would cost us in real dollars here in Southington,” Pocock said. “I think we should set a number - $910,000 – as a maximum for any early bids. Once we hit the mark, what happens if something goes wrong?”
The town would consider a possible vote on a referendum if it appears costs could possibly exceed $1 million, a requirement under town charter, and Pocock said he wasn’t about to try and step around that.
Numbers provided in the process will remain confidential and will not be released to the public, Mark Sciota said, as to not interfere with a potential future bidding process. Once the numbers are collected, only the final estimates will be released.