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Board of Finance, Town Council approve proposal to install lights at Avon High – The Collinsville Press
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Board of Finance, Town Council approve proposal to install lights at Avon High

For years, portable generators stationed around the field have been used to illuminate the Avon High field for sporting events.

AVON, Nov. 24, 2020 – The Avon Board of Finance approved a proposal Monday night to spend $235,000 toward in the installation of light poles and lights around the new synthetic turf field at Avon High School. The Town Council also approved a similar measure at a meeting last week.

In December 2018, town voters approved in a referendum the construction of a $2.99 million eight-land track and field complex and synthetic turf field outside of Avon High. Lights to illuminate the playing field were not included in the proposal but work to install conduit and light pole fixtures was included as part of the project.

The track and field complex and the new field were constructed in 2019 with games beginning in September 2019.

The coast of purchase and installation of the lights is currently estimated at $375,742, according to Brandon Robertson, Avon’s Town Manager. There will be additional cost for some site buffering work but that is undetermined at this time. “We are currently working with the neighbors to develop some design options,” Robertson said.

The town took advantage of approximately $465,000 they received as a sale premium from the bond they took out to pay for this project.

A bond premium results from a bond that is priced higher than its face value, Robertson said. “The interest rate paid to bond holders is higher than the prevailing market rate, returning cash to investors more rapidly than a non-premium bond. Robertson said the premium is likely a factor of the historically low interest rates as well as the town’s AAA credit rating.

By law, the town had two choices for spending that sale premium. They could use the money to offset debt service or take care of a portion of a capital expense that is related to the project – such as the lighting proposal.

The Board of Finance approved the measure to spend up to $235,000 for the lights at the high school and the remaining money ($230,000) to retire debt by a vote of 4-2 with one abstention. The Town Council approved the same proposal at a special meeting on Nov. 16.

“I would not (recommend) put(tting) this through if I didn’t think we (as a town) could handle it,” Heather Maguire, chair of the Town Council said during the Board of Finance’s online meeting. “We’ve always partnered with ACORN on projects like this.”

Board of Finance Chair Thomas Harrison, Catherine Durdan, Ellen Retelle and Catherine Salchert voted in favor of the proposal while Margaret Bratton and Katrina Marin were opposed. Ken Birk abstained.

“We in the midst of a pandemic and economic whirlwind and we haven’t seen the full impact yet,” Board of Finance member Katrina Marin said. “The best decision is to pay off the debit and establish financial stability. I would love to see ACORN resume their fundraising. It might take a little more time to do it.”

ACORN (Avon Community Recreation Neighborhood), a non-profit community organization dedicated to investing in resources to enhance recreation in Avon, has raised more than $140,000 toward the lights project. Susan Rietano Davey, president of ACORN, said the organization is on track to raise another $15,000 through its Lights on Avon campaign.

ACORN paused their fundraising efforts in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several large grants that they had originally planned on didn’t work out. “It’s not a good time to be looking for grant money when people are having a hard time getting enough food to eat,” Rietano Davey said.

During the pandemic, ACORN chose not to compete for grants against organizations such as Gifts of Love or other charitable organization that are helping people with food and shelter, Rietano Davey said.

Donations to the lighting project have been varied. Rietano Davey said more than 250 individuals have donated to ACORN’s fundraising initiative with the average donation being $200. “There are a lot of people donating for this and that says something about our donors.”

“We’re delighted,” Rietano Davey said of the decisions of the Board of Finance and the Town Council. “It is a combination of delight and relief. We really appreciate the town stepping up and we want to thank the boards and Heather (Maguire) for their leadership on this.”

Once ACORN provides the town with a check for their total contribution, the Town Council and Board of Finance will formally appropriate the funds to the project, Robertson said. An order will be placed for the lights and an installation schedule will be developed.

The Town Council had an extensive discussion about the project and appropriating a portion of the bond premium toward the installation of lights at their July 30 meeting. Minutes for the Town Council’s most recent meeting on Nov. 16 when they voted for allocating money to the lighting project have not been posted yet at the town’s website.

Along with track and field competitions, football, field hockey, boys soccer, girls soccer, boys lacrosse and girls lacrosse can be played on the turf field.

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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