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Stonington referendum passes road, athletic field repairs

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: theday.com

Published October 17. 2012 9:00PM   Updated October 17. 2012 11:59PM

Stonington — The roads and athletic fields in town are about to get better.

Taxpayers voted overwhelmingly at Wednesday’s referendum to approve plans to borrow $3.5 million to fix town roads and another $2.7 million to repair its athletic fields and install an artificial turf football field at the high school.

Voters approved the road plan by a vote of 1,053-351 and the fields initiative by a vote of 827-530. A little more than 11 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

After the vote was announced in Town Hall, members of the Athletic Fields Task Force congratulated each other.

The road work will start next spring and will be completed over four years, while plans call for installing the artificial turf by August and for improving the grass field by next fall.

“I’m pleased with the outcome and appreciate the support from residents. Now we got a lot of work to do,” said First Selectman Ed Haberek, who created the fields task force to come up with plan.

He commended the task force and Town Hall staff for their work on the projects. He said the work will help the town get back to where it should be in terms of its infrastructure.

The town actually plans to use $1 million left from its 2011-12 budget and spend $4.5 million on the roads.

The four-year plan calls for repairs to 25.3 miles on 49 town roads. Not all town roads that need work will be repaired, as that would cost $14 million. The Public Works department has surveyed all the roads in town and has prioritized the ones that it will fix.

The fields plan calls for installing artificial turf on the football field and making repairs to the existing grass fields and other improvements to the athletic complex.

The task force was formed to address the deteriorating conditions of the softball, all-purpose, soccer and field hockey fields, all of which flood. The problems have been exacerbated by heavy use of the fields, not just by high school teams but by recreation programs, youth teams, residents and outside groups. This fall, the school system had to sped $17,000 to do emergency resodding on some parts of the football field. The artificial turf field can be used for several sports and is expected to take some of the pressure off the other fields.

The fields have gotten to the point where the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference banned the high school from hosting state tournament field hockey games last year.

The town, school board and recreation department also have reached an agreement on which group will be responsible for which fields and facilities.

The town will bond the road money over 22 years and, according to projections, a resident with a home assessed at $200,000 would pay between $2 and $18 a year more in taxes during that time for a total of $256 more.

The town will bond the fields money over 20 years. The same homeowner would pay an additional $8 to $14 a year over 20 years for a total of $216.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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