Community Preservation Committee Approves Town Meeting Requests; Votes to Request Continuation of 3% Surcharge

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

At a public hearing to discuss Community Preservation project applications, the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) reviewed proposals for five different projects, ultimately recommending that all of them be put to a vote at the upcoming Special Town Meeting on Tuesday, November 13th.

The first recommendation is torestore $75,000 to the Community Preservation historic preservation reserves from available funds in FY13 Community Preservation budget. The amount was, in essence, borrowedto cover a higher-than-expected expense for the Old Reservoir and Ringwell restoration project. Replacement is desired because the CPC had determined that a balance of about $1M should be maintained specifically in the historic reserve account against the possibility of a major project, and borrowing the $75,000 had caused the balance to dip below the recommended level.

The second recommendation isfor $3,500 for an Open Space project that has been requested by the Conservation Commission. The appropriation would fully fund a survey of the boundary linesof the Hartwell Forest and Jordan Conservation Land. This project has been deemed necessary because abutters have encroached on conservation land, perhaps inadvertently. The survey project is intended to alleviate confusion between protected and private properties.

A third recommendation from the committee is that $30,000 be given to the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust for the purpose of launching a social services pilot program to prevent homelessness. These funds would be drawn from the Community Preservation’s Affordable Housing reserves, which currently stand at just over $600,000. Because 16.9% of Bedford’shousing stock is affordable—well over the state’s mandate of 10%—the town does not need funds to build or purchase more affordable housing units.

[A previous article on this subject appears in The Citizen athttps://thebedfordcitizen.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/clerkin-presents-proposal-to-prevent-homelessness/]

The final two recommendations focused on the creation of new athletic fields and the conversion of the Sabourin football field from natural grass to synthetic turf. DPW Director Rich Warrington presented the CPC with three options, centered on the two initiatives. The three options were: 1) converting Sabourin from grass to turf; 2) creation of two natural grass fields on the former St. Michael’s land; and3) the creation, instead, of two synthetic turf fields on that property. Full funding for option 2 or option 3 would ultimately include the cost of wetlands mitigation expenses.

Members of the Outdoor Recreation Area Study Committee (ORASC), Dave Sukoff and Ron Taylor, were on hand to answer questions, but stipulated that the Selectmen have not yet heard their full report on the comprehensive field analysis that the committee had been charged to perform. That ORASC presentation is scheduled for Monday, October 1, at 8:00 pm at the Selectmen’s meeting at Town Hall.

Although waiting for their full presentation and for the Selectmen’s input on Monday,Sukoff and Taylor were nonetheless able to summarize that their findings indicate the need for three full-sized playing fields in order accommodate demand, and that the current field inventory is woefully unable to meet Bedford’s needs.

“We have a set amount of inventory and an extensive amount of use,” Sukoff said. “ Our conclusion—we have a nine-member committee, we spent countless hours putting together all kinds of data and comparing to other municipalities—is that we are vastly over-using our supply of fields. We can quantify this. We estimate that a grass field should be used approximately 300 hours a year. This is an optimal use of a field to preserve it as best you can. We are currently over-using our fields by roughly 1,000 hours[a year]. So it’s an extreme.”

Sukoff went on to explain that installing synthetic turf on Sabourin Field would go a long way to solving the problem, although by itself the conversion does not entirely put the issue to rest. However,Sabourin—used only rarely now—is not a fully-utilized field. If it were played on more frequently, the pressureon the other fields would diminish, Sukoff said.

“There would still be unmet demand after turfing [Sabourin], but…the impact of putting synthetic turf there is enormous,” Sukoff added.

Several funding strategies were discussed before motions were made on the athletic fields proposals. To help clarify the options and the financial impacts of the choices, Finance Director Victor Garofalo distributed information that demonstrated the various ways that the projects could be paid for. All three of the athletic field initiatives would access whateverCommunity Preservation funds they could, but would also require bonding for the remaining costs, with payments to come from future CP budgets. Selectmen Cordes, Community Preservation liaison, said that the Selectmen would make funding recommendations if, following ORASC’s report, they, in fact, approved the projects.

In a unanimous show of support for the athletics fields projects, the Community Preservation Committee voted, contingent upon the approval of the projects by the Selectmen, to recommend that $150,000 from the recreation reserves be allocated to offset the final cost of putting the synthetic turf on Sabourin Field. The committee also recommended approval of another $150,000 from remaining FY13 funds to be put toward the design of the athletic fields on the former St. Michael’s land, whether they are natural grass or synthetic.

The Committee also unanimously agreed to request continuation of the 3% property tax surcharge that funds the Community Preservation initiative. Though the state is no longer able to match town-generated funds dollar-for-dollar, percentages appear to be inching higher than they have been in recent history. Last year the match percentage was 29% or, in other words, for every dollar Bedford gave last year, the state contributed 29 cents.

Garofalo explained to recently appointed members of the committee that even if Town Meeting were to vote to eliminate the Community Preservation surcharge entirely, the charge would remain until the currently approved project bonds were paid off.

Recent and ongoing projects that have used Community Preservation funds include: re-roofing the Job Lane House; renovation of Town Center— including separate flooring and exterior painting projects; Town Hall rehabilitation; purchase of 40+ acres of the former Princeton Property at 350A Concord Road; Springs Brook Park expansion and upgrades; Wilson Mill restoration; affordable housing initiatives; Depot Park improvements and Old Freight House restoration; hiking and bike path improvements; and Fawn Lake clean up.

The Community Preservation Committee’s recommendations will be presented to the Selectmen on Monday night at 9:00, immediately following the ORASC fields presentation at 8:00. To access the full Selectmen’s agenda, visit: https://www.town.bedford.ma.us/index.php/publications/agendas/cat_view/113-agendas/148-selectmen-agendas


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kimsiebert
9 years ago

Joy, I found an article the directly relates to your comment. It was published by the North section of the Boston Globe in July. Here’s the relevant paragraph:

” ‘CPA money can no longer be used to acquire artificial turf but it still can be spent on other
features related to turf projects, such as drainage and site preparation,’ said Stuart Saginor, executive director of the Community Preservation Coalition, a key supporter of the law and the recent changes.”

Here’s the link to the whole article: https://www.communitypreservation.org/GlobeNorth_July2012.pdf

kimsiebert
9 years ago

Hi Joy,
Thanks for your comment. I want to mention, in response, that the Community Preservation Act was recently changed so that CP funds can be used for part of turf field installation. The only portion of the field NOT eligible is the “rug” –everything underneath that is now fair game. The change took place this summer so it’s really a brand new ruling,

Kim

Joy Kenen
Joy Kenen
9 years ago
Reply to  kimsiebert

In spirit, the CPA, as written by the state was not MEANT to fund artificial turf in ANY PART, whether it be the preparation of the field or not. It’s like saying, “We want the funds to develop a field,” with our fingers crossed, not saying what it is really for. It is a dishonest use of CPA Funding and I am just as opposed to that as I am opposed to the installation of an artificial turf field.

I read the ruling. And it upsets me that people in this town would try and use a perceived loophole to use these funds, even though it is quite clear that they are not intended for that usage. I was not available for the meeting last night, or I would have voiced my opinion directly to the Selectmen.

Joy Kenen
Joy Kenen
9 years ago

The Community Preservation Act was never intended to be used in ANY part for the installation of turf fields. The Act had to be revised to close a loophole and forbid the use of funds for installation of turf specifically because towns were taking advantage of it to install turf. But there are those here in town with what I call “Turf Envy”, who will go to any lengths to get their way to get a turf field installed at Savourin Field.

Turf is not “green”. It is expensive, requiring replacement at a maximum every 10 years, must be kept up, and must be paid for on our town’s credit card… We have about 10% debt already and another 1 million dollars in debt will not help. Not to mention the yearly upkeep costs on the turf.

In many communities, the so-called nonprofit sports leagues and boosters defray all or a substantial part of the cost of installing, maintaining, and replacing of the turf fields in an arrangement that city or town officials like to call “public-private partnership.” It is a “partnership” alright! The use of the public’s land and some of public’s treasure is ponied up in favor or a gated eco-desert rug, with limited use and questionable appeal.

We have undeveloped grass fields which should cover our needs and are perfectly eligible for CPA fund use. I would support use of these funds for grass fields only.

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