By ALISSA SCOTT
A project to replace the grassy infield with synthetic turf at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam has been authorized to move forward.
The Common Council passed a resolution propelling the project at a meeting Tuesday night with a 3-2 vote. Both 4th Ward Alderman David Dybas and 5th Ward Alderman Richard Legg-iero stood firm in their belief the council shouldn't spend the money until the city gets its finances straight.
The council bonded $172,500 for the work when it created its capital projects list earlier this year.
Recreation Department director Robert Spagnola, a supporter of the project, said the project will save the city $10,000 annually in maintenance costs, and the Amsterdam Mohawks -- a summer collegiate baseball team -- are required under contract to pay a little more than $5,500 for the turf per year.
During a previous council meeting, the aldermen voted to continue a contract with the Am-sterdam Mohawks and Amster-dam Baseball Club, given a resolution regarding the artificial turf project was approved and the Mohawks helped foot the bill.
That resolution stipulates the city is authorized to hire a sports firm to prepare specifications for installation of the turf. The resolution passed, though without the support of Dybas and Leggiero, who requested Spag-nola bring the specifications before the council before it voted to approve the project completely.
Spagnola delivered the specifications to the council this week, and the new resolution requests the approval of the project and that it "may be awarded through either state contract or the competitive bid process."
Leggiero said he's "totally in agreement" with Diane Hatzen-buhler, 4th Ward alderwoman-elect. Hatzenbuhler spoke during public participation earlier in the night and asked the council to table the resolution so the new council could decide its fate.
She said the turf is not a requirement under the Mohawks' contract -- which it isn't -- and she doesn't want the council to approve a project with funds that are "supposedly there."
"I think it's worthy," Leggiero said before the vote Tuesday, "but with the condition of our finances, I think it's best not to move forward. I motion to table."
His motion was struck down in the same 3-2 vote the turf received.
Dybas introduced a letter from city engineer Richard Miller about the specifications provided by the sports firm, trying to impress his opinion upon his fellow aldermen.
"'In reviewing these drawings,'" Dybas read, "'it should be noted that these are only 50 percent construction drawings and only the project manual table of contents sheet was provided.' Wow. So much."
Miller did go on to write the plans and details "seemed appropriate" for the project, but because so little was provided, he was unable to give an accurate review.
However, the efforts made by Dybas and Leggiero to stall approval of the work were unsuccessful.
First Ward Alderman Joseph Isabel, who sponsored the resolution, acknowledged the poor state of the city's finances but also said there is money the city is spending frivolously already.
Directed toward Leggiero, who is the Department of Works Committee chairman, Isabel said he has photo evidence that DPW employees spend city time and money hanging out at "a certain coffee shop."
Thane cut Isabel short, instructing both Isabel and Leggiero, who had started a back-and-forth discussion, that the council would not be discussing personnel issues in open session.
Third Ward Alderwoman Gina DeRossi, who said the turf will benefit the city, added the time to debate the project is not now -- but when the group decided to bond for the project.
Leggiero gave one last attempt to sway the others' opinions.
"I think I heard not too long ago," Leggiero said facing Spagnola in the audience, "that if this turf didn't get put in now, there'd still be baseball next season at Shuttleworth Park. Is that correct? Then I think our point is very valid."
Spagnola and Leggiero began to discuss the project and Thane banged her gavel. The public is usually only allowed to speak during presentations or public participation.
Second Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman questioned if the city would lose the bond if the project was put off for a little while.
"You wouldn't lose the bond," Thane said, "but you would lose the opportunity, in my opinion."
After the council approved the project, Isabel thanked the council.
Robert Spagnola said he's grateful the council finally allowed the project to move forward.
"I think it's a well-worthy project and I think it's good for the community and I think it's good for all the people who use the field at Shuttleworth Park," Spagnola said. "I am very appreciative that the council has given support for it."
The next step, he said, is to meet with the contractor and the turf firm Thursday. He said, weather permitting, the field will be in use next season.
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