Fields Project Overwhelmingly Supported
Town Meeting approves fields and most of the other warrant items.
After a roughly hour-long discussion on the topic, Town Meeting members last night voted 123-14 to approve a $3 million request for final design plans and renovation of the athletic fields at Milford High School. The article required a two-thirds vote to pass.
The project encompasses the renovation of the existing tennis courts, softball fields, football field, track, lights, bleachers, fencing, walkways, facilities, roadways and parking areas. It also involves replacing the natural grass fields with artificial turf. It will be paid for with $1 million from the town's excess and deficiency account (free cash), and by borrowing $2 million.
"In general, we overplay our athletic fields," Landscape Engineer Glenn Howard of CDM Architects said during a presentation to special Town Meeting voters. "They're not designed for the way they're currently being used."
The artificial turf would require no irrigation, fertilizer, mowing, herbicides or pesticides, he said, adding that it would result in lower maintenance overall when compared to natural grass fields.
Howard said he anticipates very aggressive bids for the project and a completion date of late fall 2011.
Opponents of the request questioned the safety of artificial turf as well as the timing of the project, citing a bad economy.
"I believe there is no question that our fields need to be addressed," said Town Meeting member Michael Visconti of precinct 6, adding that the question is how to address the fields.
Visconti raised several concerns, including the temperature of the turf on hot days, a study he said showed that injuries are more severe on artificial turf, as well as maintenance of the fields, which he said would require routine washing and sanitizing.
"I believe that we should rethink the artificial turf," he said. "It is not all it's cracked up to be."
Selectman Brian W. Murray said the Ad Hoc Field Committee looked at many studies that contradict the opponents' concerns and did extensive work speaking with school and athletic officials.
"It hasn't really been an issue with anybody we've talked to," he said, adding that the current natural grass field is in terrible condition with divots, "the size of foxholes."
At one point during the discussion, a vote to move the question failed with 91 in favor and 47 against. In order to move the question, 92 members would have had to vote in favor.
Town meeting members also unanimously supported a request to change the name of the Geriatric Authority of Milford to Countryside Health Care of Milford.
Other requests that received unanimous approval included:
• $17,000 to replace the fuel pumps at theHighway Department.
• $40,000 to finish the Fino Field Light Pole Project.
• $50,000 for a parking lot at Walnut and Grant streets, across from Memorial Elementary School.
• A request to authorize the Board of Selectmen to seek special legislation authorizing the Board to establish an employment contract for Town Counsel.
• $345,000 for continued consultant services for the Godfrey, O'Brien and Hospital Brooks restoration project.
• $110,000 to repaint the exterior of Town Hall
• $150,000 to replace the Fire Department's rescue truck.
• $40,000 for Milford Upper Charles Trail environmental design.
• $80,000 to complete phase II of the Charles River Improvement Project.
• $50,000 to fund engineering, consulting and legal expenses related to the cleanup of town property behind Benjamin Moore.
• $10,000 to repair the handicap ramp at Memorial Hall.
• $500,000 to offset the tax rate.
Additionally, Town Meeting members approved:
• $18,000 for Fourth of July fireworks.
• A $20,000 request for legal funding to advise selectmen on their complaint with the state Department of Utilities over the Milford Water Company's recent water contamination and plans for rate increases.
• A request to authorize selectmen to petition the legislature for an additional liquor license, so David Breen of Pinz can improve his business with an all-alcoholic beverage pouring license.
• A request to accept Longview Drive as a public way.