A Tale of Two Projects

in Editorials

When the Connecticut legislature passed a ban on most pesticides for athletic fields used by kindergarten through 8th-grade students in 2010, who knew (not an entirely rhetorical question) that a common alternative — even for towns less wealthy than Old Lyme — would be to construct playing surfaces out of countless tons of tires recycled into pelletized rubber?

Before we agree to Milone & MacBroom’s May 2017 estimate of $990,000, or Milone & MacBroom’s December 2019 estimate of $2.3 million or Board of Finance Chair Andy Russell’s (presumably) more conservative number of “up to $4 million,” for an artificial turf field for Old Lyme, certainly it would be nice to know the answers to a few questions…

  • The estimated annual maintenance costs
  • The long-term programmed replacement costs
  • The estimated tons of rubber that would be dispersed and replenished over a ten-year maintenance cycle
  • Whether the district will ask for added lights or other extras

I can’t help but compare the almost freewheeling financial and environmental uncertainties of the turf project to the hard line that the Town of Old Lyme has taken with the neighborhood of Sound View on the matter of sewers — a stalled project of not an extraordinarily different financial scale — $7.44 million.

In that case, the Town of Old Lyme is risking a series of losing arbitrations to the tune of perhaps a $1 million or $1.5 million by imposing excessive betterment fees on three or four dozen properties.

Wouldn’t the Town of Old Lyme be better off settling on a two-tiered flat assessment for residential and commercial properties in Sound View — a sort of hybrid version of what was done in Point O’ Woods — and an additional up-front investment by the town of about $1 million if it would mean avoiding the back-end costs of lawyers and the near surety of losing arbitrations?

I certainly don’t mean to spend mine or others’ money willy-nilly — though my sense is that the town would at least break even — but I have a hard time understanding why Old Lyme should hold out against the neighborhood of Sound View for a sum that is currently somewhere in the margin of error for a crumb rubber field.

If it was up to me, I’d prefer to spend the money on my Sound View neighbors or to reduce property taxes or pay for Halls Road improvements or fund affordable housing or pay down the pension burden in Hartford.

Frankly, the turf field project seems economically and ethically out-of-kilter with the realities facing Connecticut these days.

But if the town really wants the field, perhaps wait until the community has fundraised $1 million toward the project and spend the difference moving along a truly vital project which has been stalled for nearly a decade.


Note: Russell writes to clarify that his reference to “up to $4 million,” included not just the field, but the cost of athletic facilities in general.