Ballpark turf decision put on hold


After receiving phone calls from two people 4th Ward Alder-woman Diane Hatzenbuhler declined to identify, she prepared a resolution that would strike a project to install synthetic turf at Shuttleworth Park.

"I received two different phone calls from individuals saying there was potential damage of up to $5,000 potentially," Hatzen-buhler told the council at a recreation committee meeting Tuesday night. "That's all they could give me and that's all they volunteered and gave me that information. That's what I'm stating at this time."

Hatzenbuhler's resolution, which was unanimously tabled by the council during a subsequent special meeting, claims that because of the "potential" $5,000 worth of damage, the $170,000 project should be thrown out.

She said the baseball field was plowed last month without city authorization, which caused the damage.

During the meeting, Mayor Ann Thane asked Hatzenbuhler if she spoke to recreation director Robert Spagnola about the damage she was contacted about.

"I just forgot," Hatzenbuhler said. "I forgot to discuss it with the department head and we're sitting here discussing it now."

After the meeting, Hatzenbuh-ler said she didn't forget to contact Spagnola, but "chose not to call him."

"Rob talks very fast and I don't feel like I'm getting straight information from him," Hatzenbuhler said. "That's just where I'm coming from."

Spagnola was called to the podium to address Hatzenbuhler's concerns. Prior to the meeting, after reading the resolution, Spagnola said there is "no truth whatsoever" to any of Hatzenbuhler's claims and they were "100 percent made up."

First, he said, there is "no damage, minimal at best" to the field. It was plowed during the end of November by the contractors so they could obtain soil samples for the project.

It was then decided that the project would have to be postponed because of the weather.

Second Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman asked then why the issue was being brought to the council's attention.

"I don't know," Spagnola said. "I didn't write the resolution, so I'm not sure where the damage is."

Beekman asked who issued the city a bill for $5,000 worth of damage to the field.

"No one issued it," Hatzenbuhler said. "It's just an assumption. Someone that saw the damage said it could potentially be up to $5,000."

Hatzenbuhler also said that drainage tiles for the field were "extensive in cost" and the drainage system "should be protected during turf installation." A primary component of turf installation is use of a laser for leveling, which has been waived for use during the installation, according to the resolution, and as such could result in cancellation of the warranty.

Spagnola said there are no drainage tiles in the field and that the firm hired to work on the project will install it properly -- be it with a laser for leveling or another instrument capable of the same task.

Hatzenbuhler then asked Spagnola a series of questions she had written in her notes.

She asked for a list of each team that played at Shuttleworth Park and the dates for the past three years. She asked why Union College wasn't coming back to play at the park. She asked if Spagnola went out for bid on the turf company. She asked for the contract with the engineering firm that was hired.

Spagnola said he wasn't sure he had a list of teams for the past three years, but had last year's.

"I just wonder what your motive is," Spagnola said.

"I'm just asking questions," she said.

Spagnola said as far as he knows, from speaking with Union College as recently as a week and a half ago, they will be playing at Shuttleworth Park for the upcoming season.

He said he wasn't required to go out for bid for the turf company because he utilized state contracts that go are already the result of a bidding process. He said he was in contact with three companies and chose Astroturf because they dealt specifically with baseball fields.

Spagnola said the contract was given to the city controller, corporation counsel and mayor.

Finally, 3rd Ward Alderman Ronald J. Barone Sr. motioned to table the resolution.

"We have plenty of time to act on this, if you don't mind," Barone said to Hatzenbuhler. "Would you mind if we just tabled it and bring it back into committee?"

Hatzenbuhler agreed, as long as there's an understanding that no work will be done until there is a chance for the council to speak with the city engineer.

Spagnola said work may not even start by spring, given the weather.

"Thank you, Ron," Thane said, "for making that suggestion. We will go over this again and Rob can put all the same information out there he did in committee for an hour at another committee meeting."

"Keeps us sharp," Barone said.

The committee meeting was not scheduled, but the Common Council will meet Tuesday for its regular session.