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(Night 1) Blocksidge Field Improvements Proposal Comes Up Short

The artificial turf and other improvements got a slim majority at Town Meeting Monday but not the necessary two-thirds majority.

 

Proponents of a proposed $2.6 million artificial turf field, new stands and other improvements at Blocksidge Field failed by about 30 votes to win approval at Town Meeting Monday night.

The measure, which was supported by the town's Finance Committee, Capital Improvement Committee and three Selectmen, won 154 votes. It needed 185 to garner the two-thirds majority of those who attended the Town Meeting. 

One hundred and twenty of those voting at Town Meeting opposed the measure, which would have required that the town borrow $1,857,856 to pay for the new field.

An additional $750,000 would have had to be raised from private sources before the town would begin to rebuild the field for all major field sports, install lighting and build new seating. About $450,000 of the private funding has been pledged, said Paul Gorman, who made the presentation for the One Field for All Committee.

Selectman Barry Greenfield and others urged Town Meeting delegates support the proposal on its merits, investing in the town's infrastructure.

Concerns about health issues and cost

Opponents, led by Selectman David Van Dam, voiced concerns about the costs of the debt service and about the potential health risks of the artificial turf.

Much was made of the "crumbled rubber" that cushions the turf as a base. The material is made of old tires that opponents, such as Board of Health member Dr. Larry Block, argued contained toxic materials.

Opponents painted a vivid picture of storm waters washing the crumbled tire bits onto the nearby beach.

Block said the three-member board of health opposed the construction of the artifical field. In addition to the materials used, Block said the board was concerned about the heat levels generated by the turf and an increase in knee injuries.

Both sides cited numerous studies on artificial turf, with each side claiming that the studies supported their position.

Former Swampscott resident Chris Huntress, whose Huntress Sports has been advising the One Field for All Committee, said that 20 states have investigated the health risks of artifical fields and found them to be safe.

High School football coach Steve Dembowski said, "The park is in terrible shape." He said without the private funding support from a few families, the field would be so bad that it would be unplayable.

"This is a small price to pay for the kids who play sports," Dembowski said.

About 1,400 children would benefit from the field

It was estimated that 1,400 children play football, soccer, lacrosse or field hockey in town.

Proponents including Tom Driscoll said the artificial surface would have the benefit of taking pressure off stressed fields which have deteriorated from over use.

Jackie Kinney, former chairman of the School Committee, said the lighted field would allow for night games, which would be the "hub of the community." She said it would give young people a place to go, which they do not have now.

Opponents argued that the town has more pressing needs, particularly in flood control. Van Dam said the cost to the town would be $216,876.44 per year in debt service.

"It would be great to have a new field, but I am not sure it is the right priority for the town," Van Dam said.

He said he doubted if $2.6 million would be the full cost.


Citizen Swamp May 09, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Bety, Yeah I guess you're right. It'll be a memorable experience for the Thanksgiving or Powder Puff game with condemned bleachers and a torn up field. What the heck things could be worse. CS
Tom Plumbley May 09, 2012 at 07:49 PM
If the DPW had simply kept up with repairs, we wouldn't be in the state that we are in now. You only have to look at the 5 year old field at the high school to realize what happens if they are not taken care of. You want a solution? Get an outside firm to handle the fields. Give them 100K per year(as compared to the 220K we would have paid under this proposal) and start getting the fields back to where they should be!
Citizen Swamp May 09, 2012 at 08:18 PM
TP, Read the warrant, the Town pays $100K annually alone for mowing to an outside contractor. Next solution? CS
Tom Plumbley May 09, 2012 at 11:18 PM
I'd like them to spend 100K more than they currently are. But heck, the DPW could at least mow, except they would probably drive a dump truck onto the middle of the field to take the lawn mower off!
Susanne Krivit June 14, 2012 at 05:47 PM
The Synthetic Turf Council is a trade organization for the artificial grass industry. Not exactly neutral.

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