Letters to the editor: Hoyden's Hill Lane softball field
Published 1:01 am, Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Not what we can afford at this time
One week ago the RTM approved bonding (borrowing money) of $350,000 to build another ball field in Fairfield. The vote was close at 22 to 20, and several RTM members who voted either voiced outright or appeared to have a close vested interests in the approval of this bonding. This vote occurred barely a month after the extremely contentious town budget approval during which many town departmental budgets were slashed, including a cut of almost $100,000 from public safety (fire and police); the rejection of money for a public school handicapped bathroom renovation, and a zero percent salary increase for our teachers. In light of the current fiscal climate, the town's inordinate fondness for and level of continued bonding, and next year's anticipated difficult budget, it does not seem fiscally responsible at this time to approve an additional $350,000 in bonded borrowing on top of the previous $1.8 million the town expended in 2007 to purchase the land for the construction of a ball field.
It is our view that the vote to approve borrowing this money is simply not consistent with what we have heard from the majority of Fairfield's taxpaying public, with a very vocal portion contacting us regularly to urge reform and "no more bonding and no more tax increases." As representatives in the Fairfield RTM, we feel an obligation to bring this situation to the attention of the wider public. In 2009 the voters turned out to replace a majority of the then RTM representatives in response to a platform and promises of fiscal restraint, and this bonding approval is anything but in our view. Our taxes have increased an average of 7.8 percent per annum for the past nine years while at the same time, very few of us have had salary increases of 7.8 percent, and investment returns of 7.8 percent. We are after all, in a nationwide economic recession with unemployment and foreclosures in Connecticut at a generational all time high. Another ball field while nice, is not what we can afford at this time.
Therefore, we support the efforts of town taxpayers in petitioning for a referendum to let the voters as a body decide on this issue. We urge you to let your voice be heard by signing a petition, and if a referendum is held, by turning out to vote "no" to the bonding for ball fields. You can find out where to sign a petition at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Liz Hoffmann, RTM District 8,
Kathy Braun, RTM District 8,
Richard Santalesa, RTM District 3,
Treasure what remains
I enthusiastically support playing fields, and softball but not as proposed by the town on Hoyden's Hill Lane. With some creative rethinking of current land use in town and team rescheduling, could not some less pristine land be found to bulldoze for fields, parking and roads.
Never in our lifetimes and our children's will we be able to create again the meadows and wildlife habitat flourishing on this site.
Finding a home and inspiration in nature is as vital for families as is competitive sports. Fairfield has lost so much of its original lansdscape we should treasure what remains.
On Monday June 28, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) voted on a resolution for the Town to bond $350,000 to establish a softball field on the town-owned Parsells property on Hoyden's Lane. In the interests of full disclosure, I was against this measure, and my side lost in a vote of 22 to 20.
I take umbrage, however, at the way the vote was reached. According to my source, there are four RTM members who have some sort of affiliation with baseball teams, both girls and co-ed. None recused himself or abstained from the vote. Representative Harold Schwartz even announced that he was in favor of the field because he makes money umpiring Little League teams. He said he would recuse himself. And then he voted for the funding.
Our first selectman, who is in favor of the field, apparently didn't bat an eye. (Isn't he supposed to be setting an example of integrity for the practices of town government?) Moderator Jeffrey Steele apparently didn't protest. (Are there baseball interests there? I don't know, but one wonders.)
Also a concern: What sort of values do the conflict-of-interest members impart to the young minds they are influencing -- "Get out there and win at any cost?"
The vote for ball field funding was tainted. It should be rescinded.
The recent 22--20 RTM decision to provide borrowed funds to develop the parcel adjacent to the Hoyden's Hill Open Space and the DEP Hemlock Reservoir property implicates each of us in the potential destruction of valuable wildlife habitat. The "for recreation" designation does not change the environmental importance of the site.
Specifically, the bird survey of the Hoyden's Hill Open Space, prepared for the Parks and Recreation Department in 2005 involved multiple visits to the area, recorded observation of 54 species and "confirmed the presence of state-listed species (Brown Thrasher) and two species of conservation concern (Wood Thrush and Blue-Winged Warbler)."
The author observes: "In the Hoyden's Hill area, open fields, hedgerows and reverting meadows interface with the woodland areas to create very productive wildlife habitat. ... Many of these species are sensitive to environmental change and all have declining population within the state."
With regard to the Warbler "most authorities recommend implementing conservation plans and management practices to conserve and preserve this species." Active recreation is not recommended, but if undertaken, should be mitigated and limited to "only low impact active uses," no pavement, lights, use of herbicides or pesticides or destruction of hedgerows and breeding areas (pages 11-13).
While town officials will claim to be complying with some of these requirements, building sewage facilities, roadways, parking lots, detention basins, storage buildings and a manicured and fenced athletic field is not environmental stewardship. Also, maintaining these "improvements" will involve the town in on-going expenses in addition to the debt that we will carry. In this case, environmental conservation and fiscal responsibility go together. We have a rare opportunity to manage these sensitive properties with very little expense in a way that will enhance instead of threaten the prospects for the species mentioned and many others.
We urge you to sign the petition that is being circulated (Deadline, July 13) for a referendum on this issue, so that each of us can take personal responsibility for this consequential decision that has been taken in our name.
Ellen M. Pinson and Daniel M. Rose, M.D.,