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Avon working to bring turf field proposal to referendum in December

The town hopes to bring a proposal for a synthetic turf field and new eight-lane track and field complex at Avon High to voters in Avon this December.

AVON, August 15 – A proposal to install two new synthetic turf fields at Avon High, a new eight-lane track and field facility, new bleachers and press box has been scaled back and the town is looking to bring the reduced proposal to referendum in December.

In December 2016, the Avon Town Council and Board of Education endorsed a $4.6 million proposal to upgrade athletic facilities at Avon High. However, request for financial support for the project from the state of Connecticut went unanswered.

This March, Town Manager Brandon Robertson and Town Council chair Republican Heather Maguire met with Benjamin Barnes, secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management and the state budget director and Barnes said that no funding from the state would be available.

Now, the town of Avon is working to bring the reduced $2.6 million proposal to referendum in December to allow town residents to vote on the proposal. Robertson released the new proposal at a recent special meeting with the Town Council and Board of Education.

The revised proposal would install a synthetic turf field to replace the current football field at Avon High, a new eight-land track and field facility and conduit for lights in the future. A second turf field, where the field hockey field is currently located, a 1,000-seat grandstand and a new press box were cut from the project.

Robertson said the turf field project and a proposal to replace the town radio network would be on the agenda in the referendum. Town officials said that the estimated cost of the radio project is currently about $3.8 million.

The cost of the turf project could rise to $2.9 million, town officials said, if an alternative material is used for the synthetic turf field. The current proposal calls for coated crumb rubber fill between the blades of plastic grass.

Football, field hockey, soccer and lacrosse could be played on the synthetic turf field.

Lights aren’t part of the proposal that the town will bring to voters but the project will include conduit for lights if the town chooses to install them in the future.

A few things need to happen to hold the referendum.

  • The Board of Finance, Planning and Zoning and Town Council need to approve the referendum mailer in September.
  • In October, the Board of Finance will need to recommend appropriation and borrowing authorizations – should the referendum items pass.
  • The Town Council would need to submit the bond resolutions at a special Town Council meeting in October and set the date of the referendum.
  • A special Town Meeting will be held in early November to have the bond resolutions moved, seconded and discussed. No vote will be taken and the meeting will be adjourned to the referendum, tentatively set for December 12.

Town officials and volunteers have been working since early 2014 on plans for a synthetic turf field in Avon. When the plan was being developed, Robertson said that the town was anticipating three sources of funding – town funding, state funding and local fundraising efforts. This was the plan used to play for a recent expansion project at the Avon Free Public Library.

The town was hopeful that they could have received some state assistance. Over the past 12 years, the state helped fund 15 projects to install synthetic turf fields, spending $13.7 million, according to documents provided by State Senator Kevin Witkos in 2016. Most projects were funded through the Bond Commission but some towns received money from the Small Town Economic Assistance Program.

Farmington received $500,000 for its new high school field in 2014 while Torrington received $2.97 million in 2013 for a new field and track and field complex at their high school. In 2016, Derby received $2.9 million for a new field while Wallingford received $250,000.

Lights were not included in either Avon High proposals but the original proposal sent to the state in 2016 called for town policies that would limit night games to just 15 a year and no night games from December through March.

Town website: Avon synthetic field project

Canton and Avon battle on the grass at Avon High School in 2009.

Timeline

  • May 2018: In a special meeting, Town Manager Brandon Robertson presents new scaled back proposal to Town Council and Board of Education that would cost an estimated $2.6 million.
  • March 2018: Town Manager Brandon Robertson sends followup letter to Ben Barnes at the Office of Policy and Management (OP&M) regarding Avon’s request for financial assistance – a $2.5 million grant — with this project from the state. Robertson and Town Council chair Heather Maguire meet with Barnes on March 27. The answer was no.
  • May 2017: Town Manager Brandon Robertson sends followup letter to Ben Barnes at the Office of Policy and Management regarding Avon’s request for financial assistance with this project from the state
  • January 2017: A letter of support from State Senator Kevin Witkos, State Representative Tim LeGeyt and State Representative Derek Slap is sent to Ben Barnes at OP&M asking for a $2.5 million grant.
  • January 2017: Town Manager Brandon Robertson and school Superintendent Gary Mala ask area legislators (Kevin Witkos, Tim LeGeyt, Derek Slap) for support for the town’s request for a $2.5 million grant from the state to support the project.
  • December 2016: A $4.6 million proposal is finalized to install two synthetic turf fields at Avon High, including building an eight-lane track and building a new 1,000-set grand stand and press box. Conduit for lights, potentially in the future, would be part of the project.
  • November 2016: Town Council considers finalizing a proposal to install two synthetic turf fields at Avon High and build an eight-lane track.
  • September 2016: The Town Council and Board of Education hold a joint public hearing to comment about the proposal. Recreation and Park subcommittee proposal for Avon High, September 2016
  • August 2016: Recreation and Park subcommittee meets throughout the summer and comes up with a proposal.
  • May 2016: Subcommittee of Recreation and Parks work with the town architect and Board of Education staff to begin work on their recommendation.
  • April 2016: Town Council decides to appoint a committee to come up with a final proposal for upgrading facilities at Avon High. Votes to spend $30,000 to modify plans to address issues with the proposal at the high school.
  • December 2015: Board of Education hears proposal to upgrade athletic facilities at Avon High.
  • June 2015: Town Council hears $3.21 million proposal to upgrade athletic facilities at Avon High by rebuilding tack and installing two synthetic turf fields.
  • April 2015: Subcommittee of the Recreation and Park committee recommend $3.21 million proposal to upgrade athletic facilities at Avon High by rebuilding tack and installing two synthetic turf fields.
  • November 2014: Architect provides town with two proposals for athletic complex on 15.25 acre parcel on Thompson Brook Road at site of former M.H. Rhodes Company, adjacent to the bike trail. Town Council asks for estimates for similar complex at the high school.
  • February 2014: Town Council unanimously votes to spend $40,000 for an architect to draw up plans to build a synthetic turf field and recreation complex on Thompson Brook Road
  • November 2013: Seventy people attend Avon Student Athletic Park Steering Committee meeting

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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