Updated: Original Title was “Turf Time: Council Unanimous in Approval of Synthetic Turf”
The auditorium at was filled Tuesday evening with student athletes, coaches, parents, business owners and other members of the community determined to make sure their voice was heard regarding the installation of synthetic turf at .
In the end, their message was heard loud and clear as the overwhelming majority in attendance voiced their favor for the $900,000 project.
After 44 different speakers took to the podium and spent more than an hour touting the need for a turf replacement at the school and not one opposed the project, members of the Southington Town Council were left with little option other than to approve the project.
The council voted unanimously to approve a motion allowing the town to move forward in securing a bond and going to bid for the purchase and installation of a synthetic turf field at .
“We can’t kid ourselves, this is a project that is going to cost a lot of money, but it is a cost that I consider to be important for our students and our athletic teams throughout the community,” said Councilman John Barry, who also served as a member of the Turf Committee. “There are still costs we need to look at to make sure the taxpayer is not fronting another bill six, eight or ten years down the road.”
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Under the recommendations approved by the council, the project would be funded through the town with the Board of Education allowing oversight of the project to be conducted by town employees. The field will be a “shared resource” for the community.
The town may consider only bids that will not exceed $900,000 and include a contingency otherwise the project will need to return before the council for further action said Town Attorney Mark Sciota. The funding plan will also need to be approved by the Board of Finance.
Mike DeFeo, who served as the chairman of the council’s Turf Committee, led off the hearing by saying that after of installing turf versus keeping the field covered with natural grass.
“The committee has done its due diligence in looking at all the options available and we were unanimous in coming to a recommendation in favor of this project,” DeFeo said. “I was asked to go back and analyze the costs and if I believed it would be in the mid to high $900,000 range, I would not be in front of you here tonight.”
Under town charter, projects costing less than $1 million do not have to go to referendum.
DeFeo’s comments focused solely , but they were the beginning of an onslaught of support that came from all sides of the community as everyone from individual business owners to high school and youth league coaches, band backers and the athletes themselves touted the need for a new field.
The ongoing hour long presentation included a focus on the importance of fixing the field to address growing field needs in town, preventing unnecessary injuries and even using the field to provide economic benefits throughout Southington.
“This is not just a sports initiative,” said David Yanosy, Southington High School boys’ varsity soccer coach. “I truly believe there is an educational and community aspect to it.”
Students like Stephen Barmore, quarterback of the Southington Blue Knights football team, and Travis Daly, a three sport athlete who plays football and competes as a member of the track team, said they are worried that if existing drainage issues aren’t addressed, it could leave them or their teammates with potentially career-ending sports injuries.
By the time everyone had spoken, more than an hour had passed and there wasn’t a single voice opposed to the project.
Barry, one of five council members who spoke in favor of the project, said he did not believe economic development should be used as a reason, but was in full support of the project.
Both Barry and Christopher Palmieri, the minority leader, said there is still a lot of work to be done in funding the project and making sure it is done with the interests of the taxpayers in mind. That said, Barry said there should be no complaints because those opposed to the project did not voice their concerns.
“We held many meetings (with the committee), we’ve had several opportunities for public input,” Barry said. “There is no reason for anyone to complain in this town that they did not have a chance to voice their opinions on this issue. We saw tonight that not one person spoke against this project.”
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