RTM approves $4.7 million for new turf fields, track
WESTPORT — The Representative Town Meeting approved a hefty $4.75 million appropriation to replace four synthetic turf fields in town and the Staples High School track.
The Tuesday night vote passed 29-1 and was opposed only by RTM member Greg Kraut, who did not speak publicly at the meeting about his reasons for dissent.
“We knew this time would come for replacement, and consequently this project has been in the capital forecast since fiscal year 2015-2016,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said.
All of the fields scheduled for replacement — PJ Romano, Wakeman B, Ginny Parker, and the Staples stadium — are between 10 and 20 years old and at the end of their useful life, Parks and Recreation Department Director Jennifer Fava said.
The synthetic infill chosen for the fields complies with town’s ban on crumb rubber turf, which passed the RTM in October, Fava said.
The “dual fiber” material that will be used has a high melting point, said Dan Kroeber, an engineer with New Haven-based firm Milone & Macbroom which designed the project.
Heat-induced offgas of particles that contain toxic and carcinogenic chemicals is the primary problem with turf, David Brown, a Westport resident and toxicologist, said at the time the ban was passed.
In addition to the turf replacements, a shock pad will be placed underneath the fields that has a 24-year warranty and will likely cut the cost of the next replacement in half, Kroeber said.
Other improvements, such as replaced fencing and a new walkway around the Wakeman field, are also built into the $4.75 million cost, Kroeber added.
Five companies submitted bids for the project, and Mamaroneck-based DeRosa Sports Construction, Inc. came in with the lowest price, Fava said.
Construction on the Wakeman field will be complete by the end of summer, and the Staples field and track will be done by Sept. 28, Kroeber said, noting the other two fields will be replaced the following summer.
In light of the announcement this month that Beachside of Connecticut Soccer Club will terminate its girls program while keeping the boys teams, RTM member Kristan Hamlin called on Fava not to let private entities who discriminate on the basis of sex use town fields.
“I think it’s our obligation to provide nondiscriminatory access to good fields for boys and girls,” Hamlin said.
Beachside does not use Westport town fields for either its boys or girls programs, Fava said.
RTM member Christine Meiers Schatz echoed Hamlin in calling for an equitable split between male and female athletes on town fields.
The two fields with lights — PJ Romano and the Staples Stadium — are primarily used by male athletes Meiers Schatz said, noting this division is potentially problematic.
“Female athletics is one thing that I believe is going to help close the gender gap in the country as a whole,” she said.
As a father of a Staples athlete, RTM member Louis Mall said he would never let girls sports get lesser access to fields, adding, “I want to reassure all moms that the dads are looking out for their girls.”
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