Bath council OKs turf field construction

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BATH — Nearly three years after the project was proposed, the City Council voted 7-1 Wednesday to build an artificial turf field at the Edward J. McMann Outdoor Athletic Complex.

The council also unanimously approved the sale of the Mid Coast Center for Higher Education for nearly $800,000.

The council earlier this month established a building committee for the turf field project. It includes two councilors, several city staffers and two members of Fields for Our Future – a community group that has less than $40,000 to raise before it reaches its $580,000 goal to install the surface.

Fields for Our Future raised $270,000 before approaching the council about borrowing the remaining funds. The council voted 5-4 in February 2010 to borrow up to $300,000 for the project, but a successful petition drive sent the matter to a referendum, where voters defeated the borrowing proposal in June 2010.

The council opted in September 2010 to support the turf installation, as long as there was no request for or appropriation of taxpayer funds. Councilors established a reserve enterprise fund, meant to provide funds for future replacement of the field when it reaches “the end of its useful life.”

Annual revenue of $35,000, earned from field rentals and other McMann Field income, is earmarked for that account.

Councilor David Sinclair, who voted against the order Wednesday, said he is concerned the city will be left with a large field replacement cost, and wondered who would take over if Fields for Our Future ceases to exist.

Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni said his department, not Fields for Our Future, would be renting and managing the facility.

“We haven’t put money aside in the rentals, because we haven’t rented it yet,” Balboni said.

Fields for Our Future hopes to have the field installed this summer.

Tenants at the Mid Coast Center on Park Street, owned by the city for about a decade and formerly a hospital, include University College.

The city is selling the property to Robert Smith of Phippsburg, who has purchased and improved several properties around Bath, according to City Manager Bill Giroux.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.