Turf field at West part of budget talks

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The Parks and Recreation budget for the upcoming year represents a variety of changes and additions at Cranston’s schools and around the city, including a potential new football field at Cranston West and a possible Stony Acre Dog Park.

The City Council’s Finance Committee discussed nearly all of them with Parks and Rec director Tony Liberatore and Finance Director Robert Strom Monday night.

At the schools

A major potential upcoming project is installing synthetic turf at Cranston West’s football field, which currently has a usable track, but the field itself hasn’t been used for several years because. According to Farina, the crown in the center has deteriorated and can no longer drain.

Farina said that since 2008, West has played all of their sports, from football to soccer to field hockey, at Cranston Stadium. He pushed for this project to get done, which would cost $950,000. That money would come from a $2 million bond that will be this on this year’s ballot, which would cover any construction, renovation, and repairs to all recreational facilities in the city, according to Liberatore.

Liberatore said that the $950,000 would be used for the tearing down of the current field and the putting in of the synthetic turf. When Councilman Steve Stycos questioned how bleachers would be paid for, Liberatore said that additional money could come from a bond, if it got put on this year’s ballot, or from the Cranston West Alumni Association. He added that they’d need to pay for lights as well.

Farina argued that it isn’t fair that West doesn’t have their own field, which Liberatore agreed with.

“Cranston West high school has a beautiful complex and I believe they should be playing at their own fields instead of traveling to Cranston Stadium,” the Parks and Rec director said. “The kids growing up on the Western side of the city should have their own field, their own complex, something to look forward to for themselves, for their children and grandchildren, where East siders have had that for 11 years.”

Farina also said that it “isn’t fair” that West doesn’t have its own field anymore, and that replacing the grass would “probably cost $600,000,” so it’s worth it to spend the extra “three of four hundred thousand” to put in the synthetic turf and “create a jewel at Cranston West.”

Strom told the committee he was “semi-supportive” of this proposal because he looked at Cranston stadium as the city’s field and $950,000 is “a lot of money” for turf. He added that if revenues could be generated and grants could possibly be used, as Liberatore argued, it would make sense to pursue it.

The replacement of middle school tracks was also discussed after Councilman Paul McAuley asked Liberatore about possible repairs. Liberatore said that his department will be first looking at the tracks at Park View and Doric park, which he said need repairs.

Another part of the budget was for a playground at Eden Park Elementary, which Liberatore said is the only elementary school in Cranston without a playground. He said he has a design for it already.

Dog parks

According to Strom, this year’s capital budget allots $100,000 for the Stony Acre dog park that has been proposed and $15,000 for the Beachmont dog park that the city has already been working on. At Beachmont, Liberatore said the city has done their part in the construction, which was taking out fencing and removing asphalt from the tennis courts. The Dream Center, he said, now takes over and will be covering all expenditures the rest of the way.

Plans for the Stony Acre dog park, however, aren’t quite as set in stone.

Councilman John Lanni said at the hearing that he’s heard complaints from nearby neighbors to not build the dog park, who are citing that Johnston doesn’t have any dog parks, and since the proposed site is so close to Plainfield Pike there will be an influx on non-Cranston residents who will want to use the park.

Council President Michael Farina said that he’s gotten two complaints via email, but has also gotten 50 emails/calls telling him it is a good idea and the “dog park is what Cranston needs.” He also said, however, that the site would require site work and the budget calls for a low-impact dog park, so he’s still open to looking at other potential locations for the park.

Councilman Chris Paplauskas proposed a community meeting to gauge the interest of Cranston residents, which he said could happen sometime in April or early May.

This meeting would discuss the dog park, but also potential secondary use options for the land, which sits behind Stony Hill Elementary school. Lanni brought up the notion of using it for a lacrosse field, while Liberatore said it could potentially be used for youth soccer clinics, like it was in years past. He said a playground is not a viable option because there’s no police visibility from the street.

Strom said that because $100,000 is already allotted in the capital budget, the funds are available if the dog park at Stony Acre is approved or if there is another location that would work for the dog park to be put in.

Budlong pool

The final major discussion focused on Budlong pool, first on the new industrial liner going in then on a potential for the pool to be opened earlier in the year.

The industrial liner is already being put in, Liberatore said, and will be ready for this summer, saving the city money in the long-term, he added.

Councilman Paul Archetto suggested that the pool could be opened earlier in the year, rather than the usual late June opening, even if only on the weekends, to generate more revenue for the city. Liberatore opposed this, however, saying that he waits to open it until Cranston students are out of school and the weather is warm enough. He said not enough people would go until his usual starting date.

The proposed budget is $2.702 million, up $42,000 from last year. Liberatore said that $15,000 of that is in increased wages for part-time workers, such as playground attendants, because the minimum wage in the state went up. Strom added that revenues are made up significantly during the busy months of April, May, and June, and expenses are slightly over budget but that’s “timely and seasonal.”

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