WESTFIELD — The Edison Fields Project took a major step forward on Tuesday night with the Westfield Town Council’s passage of an $11.8-million bond ordinance.
The ordinance passed on its introduction by a vote of 8 to 1, with only Third Ward Councilman Mark LoGrippo voting against it. The project will consist of one unlit natural-grass baseball field; two multipurpose synthetic fields with stadium lighting; one synthetic baseball field and some new restroom facilities. The project will be completed under the direction of T&M Associates, a Bloomfield-based engineering firm and the winner of a recent RFQ (request for quote).
The firm, Town Administrator Jim Gildea said, will handle the project’s design, surveying and geotechnical work, and, later, will oversee construction. The project’s original concept plans may need to be adjusted somewhat, Mr. Gildea said, in order to ensure compliance with new state-level regulations regarding storm-water management.
Several members of the public, including some long-time opponents of the project and of synthetic turf in general, spoke out against the decision Tuesday night. Resident Greg Lehmberg said that, while he was happy to hear the council talking about grass fields, he felt anything coming after Edison School’s multipurpose field “would not offset the damage that the Edison project is going to do in its current state.”
Mr. Lehmberg also said the infill, “which fits the definition of a micro-plastic…migrates off the field at about 2 percent annually.” He said this was equivalent to 10,000 pounds of microplastic pollution, or 500 used tires, “entering the local environment and contaminating the soil and water.”
Other residents wanted to know why the bond issued is for $11.8 million when they had heard estimates of eight or nine million for the project. Mr. Lehmberg mentioned that he had no idea why the bond needed to be so much more when “a few months ago,” the public was told a different number.
Mr. Gildea explained that the bond is set for more money than the actual project costs. He said this is done so that any variations in the project can be accounted for. He added that the bond ordinance was to show the board of education that the town wants to “get it done.” He also said that some of the cost will be offset by PILOT money from Westfield Crossing. Mayor Shelley Brindle added that there also was a $300,000 contribution from the developer of Westfield Crossing, Elite Properties, towards parking for the site.
In voting against the ordinance, Mr. LoGrippo said he did not think it was “the right location for a facility of this magnitude.” He also stated that it was hard to justify the cost, “even if it is an estimate.”
Councilman David Contract said that while he had been opposed to the project from the beginning, and had “done everything I possibly can to convince my colleagues to agree with me,” he was ultimately voting yes to the bond ordinance. He told the public that he will have a seat at the table as the project moves forward to represent the residents of Ward 3 and make sure that their concerns are addressed.