Mixed emotions at public hearing on athletic field complex

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
South Windsor - posted Thu., Sep. 19, 2013
The Town Council chambers in South Windsor were packed at the Sept. 16 public hearing regarding the athletic fields proposal. Photos by Jennifer Coe.
The Town Council chambers in South Windsor were packed at the Sept. 16 public hearing regarding the athletic fields proposal. Photos by Jennifer Coe.

The Town Council chamber was packed with Panther colors, as residents, moms, dads and youth athletes came to express their opinions on the proposed $2.4 million athletic fields. The public hearing, held Sept. 16, was the opportunity many had been waiting for to hear the sub-committee’s plan for using the 11 acres on Nevers Road to build two turf athletic fields and one grass practice field.

Deputy Mayor Gary Bazzano (R) took the floor first to walk the Town Council through the proposed facility plan.  A sub-committee has been meeting for 18 months to assemble a plan which they felt good about offering to the public.  Bazzano began by reviewing the fact that although South Windsor reportedly has 44 athletic fields of several different types, some are what he referred to as “makeshift” and in his opinion, even dangerous at times due to their lack of space.

While school enrollment is on a decline, Bazzano said that sports participation is increasing, making the need for new fields a necessity, he feels.  “We definitely have a need,” he said. “This is not a want.”

A list of names several pages long was ticked off, one by one, as Mayor Tom Delnicki (R) welcomed the public to share their thoughts, albeit briefly.

Many in the crowd were in favor of the plan.

Despite enrollment in the school system being clearly on the decrease, Matt Reilly said he didn’t feel that those numbers reflect how children are playing their favorite sports year-round now. “The youth rely on you,” he said to the large crowd gathered. “They can’t vote.”

“Going forward, have the Parks and Recreation Committee involved,” said Craig Zimmerman.  “I think reading the tea leaves, hopefully, we can get this project,” he said. “The really important thing is for us to get a practice field.”

Others were just as passionate about making sure that taxpayers won’t be asked to foot the bill. “There are other people and creatures that need to be taken care of,” said Mary Sullivan, whose home is adjacent to the property slated to be transformed.  She said she worries about the animals that will be displaced, the light pollution and being penned-in by a fence around the fields. “We already have two lighted, noisy fields,” she said.

“I don’t want my South Windsor to be made of asphalt and concrete,” said a clearly emotional Jan Nichols. She especially did not like the fact that Plum Gulley Brook might have to be re-routed, according to the plan Bazzano presented that evening. “The seniors still pay taxes.  Their knowledge and life experiences still count.  Give us a voice, give us a vote,” she said.

People came out on both sides of sending this to referendum. Some wanted it to be put to a full town vote and others said there was no point for that, as the Town Council is not bonding this project.

Late into the evening, Delnicki asked for a straw poll vote from the people in the room.  Although many residents had already left, those that were in favor of the proposal numbered 24, those opposed to the plan numbered 22.

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