(Updated) Overwhelming Support Left Council With Little Choice in Turf Project

Hundreds were in attendance and nearly 50 people spoke in favor of having synthetic turf at Southington High School – but not one person spoke out against the project before it was approved.

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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Melody Sutter- Fisher May 30, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Way to cause extra injuries. Huge expense, totally unecessary, especially when we are considering cutting some programs and/or making parents pay for them. Sorely disappointed.
Arthur Cyr May 30, 2012 at 04:04 AM
Anybody unhappy or sorely disappointed should have gone to the meeting tonight and spoken there - NOT here. And posting "Extra injuries"? is pure misinformation from 20-25 years ago. Unnecessary expense? Not when you read and investigate and discover they need to spend $200,000 to fix the track and another $200,000 to fix the drainage after 40 years.
Lucy May 30, 2012 at 04:09 AM
This decision is like a rainy Sunday watching Ferris Bueller's Day off...funny if it was not so arrogant.
Lucy May 30, 2012 at 04:32 AM
As for critics complaining that the opposition did not turn out, I simply say some of us have to work the hours we are assigned. We do not have the same luxuries other people may enjoy in a 9 to 5 world. I may be disappointed in this aspect of the decision but I would not make uncalled for accusations about people just trying to make a living that are taking care of his or her responsibilities. In all fairness, that is just plain ugly.
Shelly May 30, 2012 at 11:05 AM
I did not attend the meeting. Honestly thought something like this didn’t have a chance due to its absurdity. All about politics. Let's add this project to the list of costly mistakes like Malloy’s busline. Totally unbelievable. Shane on this town and people like me who didn't attend the meeting to stop it like me. I'm embarrased to be part of it.
E. Taylor May 30, 2012 at 11:39 AM
How many in attendance would have said yes to the turf question of turf if the alternative was PAY FOR PLAY.
S. Richards May 30, 2012 at 12:35 PM
I don't deny that the field needs to be fixed, the thought is that this an item that should have gone to referendum as the price tag is close to 900,000 with no contingencey for cost overrun or unknown problems. I'm disappionted that the council did not at least make a motion to send it to the town for a vote. either up or down. However with the vote done there had better be so much activity on that field that the football team will have trouble scheduling to use it.
Arthur Cyr May 30, 2012 at 02:02 PM
You would think that after excluding people that have to work or people that didn't hear anything about the months of meetings about this TURF proposal that SOMEBODY would have gotten up to voice opposition.......... NOT ONE VOICE. Am I "concerned"? You betcha. I want to watch and insure that the oversight committee that installs, schedules and maintains this facility is not controlled by the BOE or the SHS Football backers. I want to see in writing the plans for private fundraising to offset 20% to 50% of the initial project costs. I want to see the first two years schedule that shows uses spread out to all SHS teams as well as every available Town team that now has to go out of town to play. I want to see the Board of Finance set up separate line items and funds that can be set aside and rolled over every year from increased income and yearly savings to fund future capital needs to this facility. I want to see a through discussion of the possibility of selling naming rights to this new facility and/or increased advertising sales and concession sales. And I want to see anybody or everybody that still is in opposition to this project to attend the next three Town Council and Board of Finance meetings and express your concerns and opposition.
Phil D May 30, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Arthur, with all this "seeing" you're gonna be doing, you better get to an optometrist! What I wanna "see" is the North Center School project get completed sometime between now and the first base on the planet Mars. That will give me some confidence that this, too, isn't some boondoggle. The taxpayers have gotten what they've asked for with this one. Suckersssss!
Arthur Cyr May 31, 2012 at 04:33 AM
"Phil D" - If you had any confidence in your opinions, you (and others) would have showed up Tuesday night and stood up for your convictions at the Town Council Public Hearing. People who opposed funding the renovations of our 40+ year old middle schools, like the people who opposed using the North Center facility to solve several Town/BOE space needs can join you opposing this field plan. Yes, people opposed the North Center plan, delayed it 2-4 months and added between $50,000 and $100,000 to the final costs. And the state DEP and DOT are still behind with final approvals. But it will open, and it will be progress. Keep watching.
Alice J May 31, 2012 at 10:38 AM
Mr. Cyr, you're missing his point. I think he's just wondering when that building project is going to get DONE. I am myself driving by it. They could have built a new building in less time. Frankly, judging by the stacked deck of sports groupies in attendance, vs. trying to get a diverse population together, I doubt if the attendance proved anything but just gave a simple-minded excuse for the Council to say, "Hey Yeah, go 'head, re-do the field." The general consensus I've found is people thought it was an expensive luxury compared to other needs. But now we can pay for them anyway. It remains to be seen whether this project, with all that's been excluded from the estimate, should have gone for a general, town-wide vote in the privacy of the voting booth, drama and intimidation removed. I will bet it comes in well over a million dollars when done. I doubt all the new uses that will ever come to fruition and the field will continue to be basically a one-use, one-season playing field. As far as a town-wide opinion goes, I guess the one vote that can be made is the next election to clean house, democrats, who in the end supported it, included. And say, Mr. Cyr, you sure want to see a lot of stuff that should have been nailed down before this project was given the go-ahead. I would have thought you wouldn't support it absent these things being seen. Too late now, Arthur.
Phil D May 31, 2012 at 10:47 AM
Hi Alice. I have heard that the Republicans liked how this went so well that they've commissioned an independent board of Republicans to look into revising the charter. There will be no voting anymore and, in its place, there will be a trial by the overwhelming opinion expressed by the people in attendance at a meeting. And they are moving the election to Christmas Eve. GIve Arthur a break. He is, after all, Mr. Arthur See-er.
Arthur Cyr May 31, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Alice - Please explain what you mean by "with all that's been excluded from the estimate", because many people made sure everything IS INCLUDED to replace the field. Now, do you want to include replacing all the bleachers and/or replacing all the light? Those items are NOT needed right now. People also keep forgetting what dollars would have to be spent in the next two years if we were not going to a turf field. And everything that must and will be part of this new facility, like an oversight and scheduling committee couldn't be formally set in stone until there was an approval to proceed. While I understand the old "Football First & Only" that has been the past, when everybody at BOE and Town Council say those days are over and this is the new path, you need to believe that lots of people are committed to this Community Field. Regarding who we elect/reelect in this town....weren't you tired of the old way things were done for the past 20 years? Lack of maintenance of buildings and roads? Lack of communication and deals made in closed sessions? Many Democrats and Republicans have worked together in the past 3-5 years to make this a better town. And when nine people say yes and you say no, just maybe they have a better handle on all the details of the subject and are willing to stand up and say so.


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