The city’s only mixed-use recreation area is due to be closed until about June for repairs, Riverhead Recreation Director Ray Coyne told City Council in its business meeting yesterday.
“The problem is, when you only have one field, those fields need a rest,” Coyne said. “We play all day and seven days a week in the summer. And now unfortunately I have to close until June so they can fix it again. ”
The field, located at the north end of Stotzky Park, was rebuilt in 2011 at a cost of approximately $ 340,000. The city laid sod and installed fences with a locked gate to protect the sod from unauthorized use. It was originally intended for use only by youth football leagues, city officials said at the time.
But demand for the field has increased and since it opened in September 2011, it has been rented out for use by adult soccer leagues, PAL soccer and others, Coyne said.
It’s at a point now where it needs major work to be usable, the recreation superintendent said yesterday. He did not indicate an estimated cost for the necessary repairs and this was not discussed during the working meeting of the board of directors yesterday.
Coyne has long been an advocate for installing artificial turf for multi-use fields in city facilities. But synthetic turf pitches are much more expensive to install, and cost prohibitive for cash-strapped Riverhead Town, even though upkeep and maintenance is cheaper than turf pitches.
The city will lose rental income due to the closure, he said. He did not specify how much rental income would be lost as a result and this was not discussed during the council working session.
The recreation department yesterday presented an overview of conditions at the city’s parks, beaches and recreation facilities, with photos of conditions that require repairs and equipment that needs to be replaced. The slideshow highlighted a variety of issues, ranging from serious drainage issues at the baseball fields at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton to the need to improve playing surfaces and paving projects at various parks, where some driveways and parking lots present safety risks.
Coyne presented board members with a report on improving the parks, outlining the priorities for this year’s capital projects.
At the top of its list – every year – is the lighting installation for the ball fields at the Veterans Memorial Park. Nighttime use of these fields would double the city’s rental income there, he said. Coyne did not provide the board with a cost estimate yesterday. In the past he has said it would cost around $ 800,000, but at this point that estimate is almost a decade old.
Coyne’s 10-page report lists projects for each of the city’s facilities, with priority items in red. The estimated costs for each have not been included.
According to the report, the city’s parks and recreation fund – fueled by lot or unit fees paid by residential project developers – currently has just over $ 121,545 in cash.
Recreation Advisory Board Chair Brian Mills, who joined the working session discussion via Zoom, told the board that “there aren’t enough new homes that can be sold, who can put enough money in those coffers to do the kind of projects we’re talking about.
Mills, who has served on the committee for almost 11 years, said money has always been a problem that has kept the city from improving its parks. There has been a history of deferred maintenance and repairs. The city keeps “kicking the box on the road,” he said.
“I guess the best way to compare is – it’s almost like you’ve bought a house but never fixed your house after 30 years,” Mills said.
The Recreation Advisory Committee is advocating borrowing the money needed to complete some of these projects which Mills says “will end up paying for themselves.”
Putting lights on the fields, installing multipurpose lawns are income-generating investments, Mills said.
The city “is really missing the opportunity presented by the lack of lights at the Veterans Memorial Park,” said Mills, reiterating what Coyne has been telling a succession of city councils for more than a decade now.
The city can’t do any of the necessary upgrades “without a big injection of capital,” Mills said.
“We would really like city council to seriously – very seriously – consider the opportunity available right now,” Mills said. “Interest rates, as you know, are at their lowest for 10 years. The 10-year Treasury currently sits at around 1.4 (percent). The opportunity won’t be better than this, ”said Mills, whose business is financial planning and management.
“There are a lot of things and a lot of priorities that we’ve submitted over the years that we just don’t have the money to do… And we’ve been talking about this for 10 years. I know Ray brought it to you before. But I really feel like it’s dead on the vine, ”Mills said.
“Our hands are really tied,” he said. Funds from community benefit agreements with solar power providers are important, he said, but not enough to deliver the type of projects that need to be done. Matching grants are also great, he said, but you have to have the money to get the matching grants. Without the money, there is no matching grant, he said.
“Other townships around the island… have done a really good job with these parks through the use of bonds. So that’s kind of our position, ”said Mills.
City Councilor Catherine Kent, city council liaison to the recreation advisory committee, said she supported the idea of lights at the Veterans Memorial Park and believed the city should ‘review’ the bond for the pay, but it must be analyzed in the context of the city’s other capital funding needs, including the proposed city plaza on East Main Street and the resolution of inadequate court facilities.
City Council this year authorized a $ 5.5 million bond to finance the acquisition of three properties on East Main Street for the creation of a public plaza.
The board of directors has also been discussing for many years how to remedy the city’s inadequate judicial facilities.
Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a severe economic toll on taxpayers as well as the city government, Kent said she would appreciate advice from the city’s financial administrator, William Rothaar.
“I think this is something we should be looking at. I don’t know what the rest of the board thinks about it.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar thanked the Recreation Department and the Advisory Committee for their presentation. She told Kent that as city council’s liaison with the advisory committee, she can make a proposal to council at any time.
“And it has to be an effort of the city council. Any effort that takes place is the entire city council. There are five of us and one individual cannot just promote an effort on their own, ”Aguiar said. “And any decision made is taken together, in a coherent way. We will look at the finances. We will see where we are financially. And it will be examined. And once again, thank you and have a good day, ”Aguiar said.
“Of course we’re a board of five and will be discussing everything,” Kent replied, “and obviously what I’m saying is we have to look at it financially, because these are tough times. “
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