Town committee questions additional turf maintenance study spending

A portion of the $200,000 approved by Falmouth (MA) Town Meeting in November for field improvements at Trotting Park and Sandwich Road will go to fund a DPW maintenance study.

Assistant Town Manager Peter Johnson-Staub told the Falmouth Recreation Committee February 7 that the $50,000 study will help the DPW put together a maintenance plan for the town’s 36 athletic fields. That includes figuring out what staffing and equipment the town’s parks department will need to effectively manage and maintain the fields, he said.

“We need to know what it’s going to take to provide first-class maintenance,” Johnson-Staub said.

Town Meeting approved $200,000 for the resodding of two fields at Trotting Park and the football/lacrosse field on Sandwich Road as part of the capital improvement plan for Fiscal Year 2018. The town plans to budget additional money for field improvements over the next five years, Johnson-Staub said.

The Trotting Park and Sandwich Road fields were identified as being among those in the worst condition in a field analysis prepared last year by Gale Associates, Inc. of Weymouth. But Johnson-Staub said replacing the grass turf on all three fields at once would leave them unavailable for use this spring. That would in turn limit the amount of available space for the town’s various leagues and youth programs to play.

Each field needs 45 days to “rest” after being resodded, which Johnson-Staub said would effectively take them out of commission for a full sports season.

Instead, Staub said the town will resod one field per season beginning this spring, thereby making an additional two fields available to local sports programs. He said $75,000 will be spent to resod the Sandwich Road field this spring, followed by a second field in the fall for another $75,000. A timetable and cost was not discussed for the third field on Wednesday.

But committee member Lori Dillon expressed frustration over plans to spend additional money on another study, especially after $20,000 was already approved and spent on the Gale report.

“I feel like we spend a lot of money on studies, and it doesn’t lead to anything,” she said.

Committee member Mike Heylin agreed, noting that a 2013 study done before the Gale report classified the Trotting Park fields as being in good shape.

“To Lori’s point, that $50,000 could be better spent getting somebody to do stuff to the fields,” he said.

The Gale report assessed the condition of all of the town-owned athletic fields, and offered recommendations as to how to go about improving their condition. The report that 19 of the 36 fields are in poor condition, and that either nine new grass fields or three multipurpose turf fields are needed in town.

Johnson-Staub and Peter McConarty, the town’s deputy public works director, advocated for the maintenance study, which they said is needed in order to put the recommendations from the Gale report into action.

“We know the amount of work that goes through the parks department,” McConarty said. “It’s a lot of work.”

McConarty said parks staff try to cut grass at fields once a week, but a maintenance plan will help the department more efficiently stay on top of caring for the fields. The $50,000 study will evaluate how many crews will be needed to properly maintain the fields, as well as how crews should be rotated.

Recreation committee chairman Bob Brown asked how the study, when complete, will be implemented. Johnson-Staub said that will depend upon the study’s findings. However, McConarty said that study’s findings will serve as a “living plan” for the parks department.

Others at the February 7 meeting questioned the estimated cost of fixing the Trotting Park and Sandwich Road fields. Marc Finneran, a Town Meeting member from Precinct 6, cited a 2014 estimate for work at the lacrosse field on Sandwich Road that came in at $38,000. Johnson-Staub was hopeful that the cost of the work could come in under $75,000.

“I hope you’re right,” he said. “I hope that number’s closer to the truth.”

McConarty said that the town will go out to bid in the coming weeks for a contractor to undertake work at Sandwich Road. The hope is for work to begin in April, he said.