Posted on 08 October 2012.
By: Maria Moore
“We DO NOT need another practice field… The Recreation Commission can not emphasize our need for flat level playing space enough…” Dan Eddy of the New Hartford Recreation Commission told the Board of Finance at that Board’s last meeting. “In your package you will see this fall’s practice schedule for soccer and football. There are NO practices in front of the Field House, and NO practices in front of Berkshire Hall. The third area at Brodie North is only used Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Our available space is probably 35-40% used.” Dan Eddy continued. The need, he emphasized, was for more playing fields.
Speaking during the Public Comments section of the meeting, Dan Eddy made the Rec Commission’s case directly to the BOF members: That the Antolini School field expansion Rec: Need For Playing Fields, Not More Practice Fields currently being overseen by New Hartford First Selectman Dan Jerram does not adequately meet the playing field need of the sports teams tha will use the field once the expansion is completed. “As proposed now, the Antolini field will be the proper size BUT it has an unacceptable slope. We DO NOT need another practice field, sloped or otherwise.” Dan Eddy said. By the fall of 2014, he said, when the Antolini field will be ready, the need for flat playing space will be even greater and Rec will have to continue lobbying for a flat playing field.
“It makes sense to build the Antolini field right, now.” Dan Eddy said, otherwise: “… at some point in the not-too-distant future we can dig up everything you are currently funding and put in a flat level playing surface, or we could do it right now.”
Dan Eddy began his presentation by passing out a packet of information to those at the meeting.
Dan Eddy first addressed the Field House restoration project which had been directly overseen by First Selectman Dan Jerram using capital funds allocated to Rec projects. Dan Eddy said: “The Recreation Commission believes and has informed numerous boards of selectmen that we need viable regulation basketball space. We have also repeatedly refused to spend money on the field house as it can not meet our needs in a financially responsible way.”
Based on research and input from a developer/contractor Dan Eddy said: “…for $133,000 we could have a weather-tight structure large enough to have a high school regulation basketball court running one way and two regulation size Junior high courts running across it. Instead, we spent $47,000 (on the field house) on a roof and probably another $10,000 on doors and minor improvements to have a structure that still needs substantial outside sheathing, and barely accommodates a regulation junior high court with two turnbuckle supports running across the width of the court about 9 feet off the ground. Rim height is 10 feet… So don’t be surprised when there is a recurring capital expenditure of $150,000 for a basketball court, because we are not solving the need.”
On several previous occasions Dan Eddy had come to the Board of Finance on behalf of the Rec Commission to address the differences between their commission and the Selectmen on how capital funds allocated to Rec were being used by the Selectmen. Dan Eddy had always been directed back to the Selectmen to resolve their issues.
On this occasion, once Dan Eddy had finished speaking, Board of Finance member Jim Fitzgerald asked why Rec felt it had to come to the Board of Finance rather than work with the Selectmen. Jim also wanted to know if it was solely the Selectmen driving the Antolini project or if there was input by Rec members to say what was needed and how it should be done. “Is there that daily or weekly collaboration?”
Dan Eddy responded that while there has been substantial interchange between Rec and the Selectmen, they seemed intransigent in that they didn’t want to spend more than $40-50,000 on Antolini and they wanted to build the field as designed, and approved, by the Planning & Zoning Commission. “I approached them with the same concern that if they’re going to do it, it should be done right. I apologize, I don’t know any other way to say this: The interchange between the Rec Commission and the Board of Selectmen has reached a point where myself and another member of the Rec Commission were told point blank that if we didn’t shut up and get on board with the Board of Selectmen we would find the Rec Commission unfunded.” On another occasion when he wasn’t in accord with the Board of Selectmen Dan Eddy said he was told: “Remember who funds the Rec Commission.”
As far as the Field House, the Selectmen had said that for $50,000 it would be a shame not to save the building for field storage and Rec had told them to go ahead and fix it up for town storage, however not to use Rec money but to take it on as part of the town’s highway budget.
As far as the Antolini project, Dan Eddy said that Rec had a study done by the town engineers which had put the cost at between $250-300,000. Rec had gone on to look at other properties. About 6 months ago the Selectmen had stepped in, saying: “It will be at Antolini and we’re doing it this way.”
Jim’s response by saying they had to find a way to collaborate and work together, otherwise: “I’m going to be the first one to say that we’re going to build that sports complex up at Brodie South and solve everybody’s problem and do it all in one area. Soccer, football, you name it. Pave it, fence it off, put a stadium in there and that’s it. Make everybody happy and leave the school alone. You guys have to work this out; it shuldn’t be coming to us month after month.”
First Selectman Dan Jerram said that he and Dan Eddy differed significantly on the Field House issue. Replacing the roof, he said, showed good judgement.
“We said use it for storage.” Dan Eddy interjected. Dan Jerram continued: “So all these things that have laid fallow for so long by those who were in charge of taking care of our parks were taken care of by your Board of Selectmen to protect the interests of the town.”
With regard to Antolini, Dan Jerram said that the Selectmen had looked at the Stedman Road property fields and decided that it was not a venue to take a hundred or so cars up there every day and change the total nature of the neighborhood when there already was existing infrastructure elsewhere. As for the slope at the Antolini field, he said that experts had told him that it was insignificant. He ended by saying: “It’s our job to use prudence and conservative vision to take care of the needs… Mr. Eddy disagrees and he is welcome to his opinion but I think we’ve shown good judgement in taking care of the field house.” Jim Fitzgerald asked if they could ask for something in writing from the engineer so that they could know what was going on and feel more feel comfortable going in front of the taxpayers the next time more money is requested.
“My solution in that situation,”Board of Finance Chairman Ben Witte said, “would be to put zero money in the budget for Recreation…” Board of Finance member Reggie Smithsaid that he didn’t want to be a referee between the Rec Commission and the Board of Selectmen.” Ben Witte continued: “My point would be to zero out money for the basketball court, the field house, the soccer field, and say “When the Board of Selectmen and the Recreation Commission can come together with a plan that they can both agree on, we’ll fund it out of surplus. ”
Board of Finance member Maria Moore suggested that they form a committee with members from the Rec Commission, the Board of Selectmen and others to look at the recreational needs of the town and how to satisfy them. “I would feel comfortable with their recommendations,” she said. Ben Witte said: “It certainly is a problem. There seems to be a huge gap between the objectives of the two boards.”
Ben asked Dan Eddy that the next time he wanted to have an extended conversation he needed to email and request to be put on their agenda.
Following is the video of the Public Comments section of the September 11 Board of Finance meeting documenting the above exchange between Rec Commission member Dan Eddy and the Board of Finance.
Click on the image above to watch the Public Comments section of the September 11 Board of Finance meeting on the NewHartfordPlus YouTube channel.
The above article was first published in the October 6 edition of the NH+ INDEPENDENT weekly newspaper.