Bath voters nix borrowing for artificial turf field

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BATH — Voters on June 8 overturned a City Council decision to borrow money for construction of an artificial turf field.

The City Council had voted 5-4 on Feb. 3 in favor of borrowing up to $300,000 for installation of artificial turf at McMann Field. Opponents then gathered more than 1,000 signatures to reverse the decision.

In April the City Council opted unanimously to sustain its February decision, but also to send the bonding question to referendum.

Tuesday’s vote to reverse the council action was 1,522 to 861.

The Fields for Our Future committee, which raised about $270,000 for the project, had asked the City Council to approve borrowing the remaining funds.

Proponents of the turf field have said its durability and ability to be used more often would produce more opportunities for events and revenue. Opponents argued that the project would be an unnecessary luxury in the current economic climate.

Jackie Dwinal of Washington Street, one of the petition gatherers, said Tuesday night that she was “on Cloud Nine.”

“I guess we must have gotten through to the people,” she said. “And now it’s up to the Fields of the Future (committee) to go out and get the money that they should have gotten in the first place.”

Bath Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni expressed a different view Wednesday morning.

“It’s pretty unfortunate,” Balboni said, adding that the committee will now meet and decide its next step. “There’s certainly concern of pledges and donations made (toward the project) that we may lose, but that’s what we have to work out.”

Balboni noted rejection of the bond proposal will not affect the city budget.

“The tax rate will still stay the same, just as it would as if (the referendum) passed,” he said. “Unfortunately it proves the same point, that we weren’t going to increase taxes for this project.”

The project would have been funded through his department’s capital assessment to Regional School Unit 1, rental fees and programs, and partnering with sports boosters, Balboni said, and would have reduced the cost of materials needed for field maintenance.

He said the plan was for the capital assessment to have remained the same as last year through the life of the loan.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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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.