By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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“I would like to see this be resolved and be in a construction timeline for next year,” Councilman Lee Whetham said at Tuesday's council meeting.
Council members approved 7-0 a motion made by Whetham that staff members are to develop financing options for some $4 million in improvements and come back with a report to council members in June.
Before the vote, Mayor Dan Di Guilio voiced concerns about prioritizing money for Civic Field over important city services.
“I want Civic Field improved, but I want to make sure that before we make that leap, we're not tying our hands and cutting back on other important services,” Di Guilio said.
“I think we need to think about it and how it impacts the general fund,” he added.
Councilman Brad Collins also supported upgrading the field but wanted a serious look at funding options.
“I don't want it to be just sort of wishing this. I want it to be a solid, analyzed [plan for] how we do this,” Collins said.
Whetham said upgrades to the aging Civic Field, including replacing the existing grass turf with an artificial surface, should be done without burdening city taxpayers.
“I want the repairs without a levy and without a bond,” said Whetham, who was elected to the council last November.
Failed bond in 2012
A $4 million bond to upgrade the field failed in 2012 with 56.9 percent of voters approving it, according to the Clallam County Auditor's Office. Such bonds need a 60 percent majority to pass.
Supporters of the bond said artificial turf would allow the field to be in use year-round by fixing field drainage issues that typically close the facility between November and March.
Year-round access could draw more people for many different sporting events, Whetham said, all of whom would likely stay in Port Angeles hotels and motels and eat in local restaurants.
“This is a way to lift the entire community,” he said Wednesday.
Whetham said he has had preliminary discussions with city Chief Financial Officer Byron Olson and city Community and Economic Development Director Nathan West about funding options, which could include seeking grants.
Di Guilio said he wanted city staff to explore partnerships with other entities, such as the Port of Port Angeles or Clallam County.
The Port Angeles School District has pledged $60,000 to help the city replace the 36-year-old lights.
The city has estimated the lights will cost $400,000 to replace and has applied for a $200,000 state Recreation and Conservation Office Local Parks grant to fund the replacement, with the city finding the money for the required 50 percent match.
Corey Delikat, deputy director of city parks and recreation, said his department is planning to replace Civic Field's water boiler before football season begins in August. The 2014 budget has $50,000 set aside for this.
The new boiler, replaced lighting and artificial turf to fix the current field's drainage problems were the three main issues the 2012 Civic Field bond was designed to address, Delikat explained.
About $3.5 million of the $4 million would be needed to add artificial turf, which would be installed with a drainage system built underneath, Delikat said.
“What you're basically paying for with artificial turf is your drainage system. That's your cost,” he said.
Artificial turf costs
Delikat said his department spends about $100,000 per year maintaining Civic Field's grass and estimated an artificial field would save about $23,000 in annual maintenance and irrigation costs.
Artificial turf would need its own unique kind of maintenance, Delikat said, which would include repainting field lines for different sports and replacing sections of turf as they wear out.
“Artificial turf is not less maintenance; it's just different maintenance,” he said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.