Plan to bond athletic fields work to go to Stonington voters Oct. 17

Stonington - A proposal to bond $2.7 million to upgrade the town's athletic fields will go to an Oct. 17 referendum after town and schools officials worked out an agreement that spells out who will be responsible for maintaining and scheduling fields and other facilities.

The Board of Finance recommended Thursday night that the plan be sent to voters after receiving the memorandum of understanding. It had postponed a decision earlier in the week until the town and school officials signed the agreement.

The board wanted the memorandum in place to ensure that if taxpayers spend the money to fix the fields, they will be properly maintained. In addition to being overused, one of the problems with the current fields is that they have not been properly maintained over the years.

The memorandum, though, does not address several issues, including that it does not discuss how money will be allocated to the parties for maintenance work.

It states there is currently no overtime for field maintenance by the public works department if the work takes place outside of the hours of 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays. The new fields, though, will not be in place until next fall at the earliest, which means funding can be worked out in the 2013-14 budget.

"Public works is still concerned about how these new responsibilities affect the structure of its department and how it can adequately maintain the functions that it is already being asked to do with their limited funding," states the agreement.

The detailed eight-page agreement makes the school system responsible for managing the baseball, practice and football fields as well as other duties at the high school complex. The Public Works Department will oversee the all-purpose, softball, field hockey and boys' soccer fields as well as fields at Pawcatuck and Mystic middle schools, playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts.

The Recreation Department has a few duties, such as choosing and purchasing new playground equipment, inspecting playgrounds on a weekly basis and providing basketball hoops, backboards and nets.

The agreement offers a detailed explanation of how the fields will be scheduled and who has responsibility for opening and closing them.

In case of heavy rain or inclement weather that could damage the fields or make them unplayable, Public Works director Joe Bragaw or his designee will recommend whether the fields should be used that day. If the school system ignores the recommendation not to play and goes ahead with a game, the school system would be responsible for damage and liability.

The fields' plan that will be voted on at the referendum calls for installing artificial turf on the football field, making repairs to the existing grass fields and making other improvements to the athletic complex.

With the recommendation of the finance board, the Board of Selectmen voted Friday to send the question to a referendum vote. It did the same for a $3.5 million proposal to repair 49 town roads. The roads and athletic fields issues will be voted on as separate items.


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