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After a two week delay, the turf project took a step forward Tuesday night when the Cheshire Town Council approved the hiring of a design engineer.
Initially, the Council was set to vote on the matter on March 29, but some Councilors were absent from the meeting. This led to the motion being tabled until April 12, so all members could make comments and let the record reflect their vote. On Tuesday night, the Council accepted the resolution with a split 5-3 vote, and very little discussion. Republican Councilors Steve Carroll, Andy Falvey, and Tim Slocum, as well Democrats Michael Ecke and Patti Flynn-Harris, voted in favor of the motion. Republicans Tom Ruocco, David Schrumm, and James Sima voted against the motion. Republican Anne Giddings was absent from the meeting as she continues to recover from injuries suffered during a car accident.
"This project is a long time coming and includes public and private money," Falvey explained. "This is an opportunity for the Town to get a fairly significant infrastructure project done at a minimal cost. It's a benefit to the community."
After Falvey's brief remarks, a vote was taken and no other members of the Council spoke.
As a result of the vote, Milone and MacBroom was hired to design the turf project as well as the track surrounding the field. For a cost of $50,700, the engineering firm will design both projects, manage the bidding process, as well as oversee the construction phase. Since the turf project is being funded through private donations and a state grant, the Turf Committee wrote the Town a check for $39,000 to pay for its share of the design engineering work. The other $11,700 came from a previous $150,000 capital appropriation for the track project.
"Milone and MacBroom understands what needs to be done," explained Bob Behrer, chairman of the Turf Committee "I think we're still on for a delivery date of October 1 or sooner."
Behrer said the Council's decision to delay the vote probably cost the project a week or so in timing, but he remained hopeful that the project would be completed this fall. According to Behrer, those who use the main field at Cheshire High School said the construction would not disrupt their seasons, if finished by October 1.
The plan now is for Milone and MacBroom to design the turf and track project, then send them both out to bid. Yet, an obstacle to the plan is that there is not complete funding available for the track project at this time. The previous appropriation, approved by voters at referendum in 2009 for $150,000, is not enough to cover the entire cost of the project. The Council approved an additional $325,000 for the project last year, but voters shot it down at referendum in November of 2010.
The turf project could be done without the track, and vice versa, but officials hope that, by doing both together, there would be some savings.
For the turf aspect of the project, the Turf Committee is relying on a $525,000 state grant, which the Council approved and accepted last year. In addition, Behrer said the group has raised about $250,000 in private donations. With $775,000 in its coffers, Behrer said the group is ready to proceed with the project based on its initial estimates. However, the real costs won't be known until the project is bid in the coming months.
"I feel we're good, but we can make adjustments," he said, noting that donors are prepared to contribute more, if the project costs are more than expected.
Behrer said the project can be completed this fall, if everyone follows a schedule. He said an unknown in the process is how many times the Town Council will want to discuss the project. He said there have already been several votes taken by the Board of Education, and now two by the Town Council, supporting the project, but he anticipated more votes to come.
"There are still members who cannot say the vote has been done democratically and move forward," he said. "We have to stay on target. We'll keep working and do this as quickly as we can."