Fairfield capital projects have easy path through the RTM
FAIRFIELD — Unlike some past years, all of the non-recurring capital projects, totaling $4.6 million in bonding, forwarded to the Representative Town Meeting were approved Monday night.
There was an unsuccessful attempt to remove funding for turf field replacements at both Tomlinson Middle School and Fairfield Warde High School, as well as some discussion regarding dredging at the town marina and improvements to the Burr Mansion.
Hannah Gale, D-6, proposed an amendment to reduce the bonding by $1.2 million, the cost of the turf field replacements.
“It has come to my attention that there is a current (Environmental Protection Agency) study that is ongoing on these crumb rubber fields,” Gale said.
Gale said she would like to see any replacement of the crumb rubber fields delayed until the completion of the EPA study due out at the end of the summer.
“We don’t know enough about these materials,” Jill Vergara, D-7, said of the crumb rubber. “It’s categorized as a hazardous waste; that alone tells me we should not be letting our children play on this.”
She said the crumb rubber fields could be on “the cusp of an asbestos-esque event.” But, Vegara said, seeing the current state of the fields, she couldn’t support Gale’s amendment. “I worry that we’re subjecting the kids to more harm by postponing,” she said.
Gale’s amendment failed, with only three members voting in support.
Another topic of debate was Burr Mansion.
Tom McCarthy, R-7, wanted to know what the pay-back period would be for the $228,000 in bonding for upgrades to the kitchen at the Burr Mansion, which is maintained and managed for the town by the Fairfield Museum and History Center.
“Our immediate goal is to make it cost neutral,” Museum Director Michael Jehle said.
The historic home is rented out for weddings, parties and special events, but has been hampered by a kitchen that was not up to code.
“I think (payback) could easily be accomplished in seven years,” Jehle said.
As for the town marina, George Harrington, who has had a boat in the South Benson Marina for 40 years, said marina rates have seen a compounded 69 percent increase in less than 10 years, while there has been “very little maintenance and no capital projects.” The Rolling Ridge Road resident said he’s sure the marina profits have all gone to the town.
The marina project will dredge the channel at a cost of $700,000. “At low tide, there is barely three feet of water out there,” Harrington said.
“I’m a boater as well,” said William Perugini, R-9. “I struggle in this challenging budget climate to appropriate $700,000 for the marina.”
Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo said one of the worst cases of low tide is on the inbound side of the channel. “We could have depths of a foot and a half lower on extreme low tides. That’s where the worst problem occurs.”
He said if not addressed, “it will turn into a one-lane road.”
Though there was discussion over the wisdom of funding the marina dredging and the Burr kitchen upgrade, there were no attempts to cut those allocations.
Michael Herley, R-10, however, did repeat his objections to separating the projects from the normal budget process.
Herley said, “As I said last year, the year prior, and I think, the year prior to that, I disagree with capital non-recurring being separated from the budget vote.” He said he believes department heads should have to allocate a small amount in their operating budgets, “a down payment.”
Other projects approved by the RTM include a design of a new Hulls Farm Road bridge, stabilization to the Rooster River at Woodside Circle, a pump station at H. Smith Richardson Golf Course, an HVAC system and tennis courts at Fairfield Warde High School, a partial roof replacement at Tomlinson and schoolwide security upgrades.