Waterford RTM to vote on proposal for $1 million softball field
Waterford — The idea for a new softball field at the high school is one approval away from becoming a reality.
At Tuesday's Representative Town Meeting, members will consider whether to appropriate a total of $1,019,515 for an artificial turf softball field at Waterford High School. Their decision at the 7 p.m. meeting at Town Hall will determine the fate of a project approximately four decades in the making.
The softball team doesn’t have its own field, and the field it uses isn’t on school property. The team plays at Veterans’ Memorial Park, and the field dimensions are larger than those required for women’s fast-pitch softball.
Unaffiliated selectwoman candidate and school board member Jody Nazarchyk, who has been shepherding the project through the approval process, noted that a regulation softball field was part of planned high school upgrade in the 1980s but it was removed from the project.
“Think of all the years not only our girls, but other teams; a lot of those girls were cheated out of home runs because the fence was way out,” Nazarchyk said.
Since 2017, Nazarchyk and others have tried to assemble support for a new field. It’s only right, she said, as the boys’ field at the school was renovated within the last 10 years.
“I don’t want more for the girls, but I just want it to be fair, and I think the fair thing to do is to put it on the high school property,” Nazarchyk said.
The BOE’s Ad Hoc Softball Field Feasibility Committee has navigated several steps to get the field to Tuesday's vote. One important step was the Board of Selectmen’s approval of $450,000 for the field in February, $550,000 less than the current cost.
Superintendent of Waterford Public Schools Thomas Giard explained this past summer, the softball feasibility committee put the various aspects of the project out to bid, and the best price came back at slightly more than $1 million. This price included a scoreboard, site work, electrical upgrades, bleachers/pressbox, fencing and artificial turf.
“We knew we had $450,000 pre-approved from last spring's budget process,” Giard said. “There was another $250,000 sitting in a turf field replacement fund for the main football, lacrosse and soccer field that exists on high school property. That gets you to seven (hundred thousand), and then the town has plans to fund the rest out of Capital Non-Recurring Undesignated Fund with a balance of $319,000.”
Proponents for the field also obtained Board of Finance approval earler this month.
“Anytime a community is going to spend a million dollars on something, we should be asking questions and making sure it’s clear,” Giard said. “Earlier this year, the town made a decision that it would utilize the School Building Committee to manage and oversee the project. So that’s another layer of oversight.”
First Selectman Dan Steward, Nazarchyk and others expressed some regret, as they had hoped to have a new softball field by this coming spring. The hope now is to have the field ready for the 2021 season.
School board Chairman Greg Benoit, along with Steward, Nazarchyk and Giard, all pointed out the new field could also be used for other sports. One reason for installing a turf field is to create an additional practice field for lacrosse, soccer, football and other activities.
Those advocating for the new field say the $1 million-plus price tag is worth it for a new multi-use athletic facility.
“If you look at the boys’ field and you look at where the girls are playing, you say to yourself, ‘Jeez, I think the girls deserve better,’” Benoit said. “Whether the girls are 20-0 or 0-20, they deserve it, and the town deserves these facilities so that our students can grow through athletics. In athletics, you learn a lot about life. It’s part of a total education.”