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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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Letter: In turf fields gift: Where's the beef?

Published 4:28 pm, Tuesday, May 27, 2014
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It's not about turf -- it's about money and process. Clara famously asked, "Where's the beef?" The question our RTM should be asking the Darien Athletic Fund before even considering approving the gift of turf fields is, "Where's the money?"

There is lots of money needed -- lots of money for the project, for ongoing maintenance and to replace the fields in 10 years. Are we going to allow the DAF to rip up our grass fields on a promise?

According to press reports, the Board of Selectmen asked about the project funds and was told there is $1 million and the ability to borrow $1 million, and the rest is pledged. Are we going to allow the DAF to rip up our grass fields on a pledge?

The Board of Education asked about the millions that will be needed to replace the fields in 10 years and were told there will be an endowment. Shouldn't that be fully funded before we allow the DAF to rip up our grass fields? How much will it be? Who will control the funds? Who can guess the cost of new turf fields in the year 2025 and who will guarantee that Darien taxpayers will not be left holding the bill? Will there be a generous contingency amount (hopefully we learned our lesson on the shuffle project)?

Paying for ongoing maintenance raises interesting issues. A DAF presentation to the BOE says "DAF will work with BOE to divert the existing facility usage fees to the DAF. DAF will ensure proper maintenance and upkeep." Town fees being "diverted" to a private body? BOE ceding maintenance and upkeep of its fields to a private body?

Shouldn't all this be worked out in detail and disclosed to the Darien taxpayers (or at least our RTM) for review before the DAF is allowed to rip up our grass fields?

After the RTM asks "Where's the money?" they should (unlike the BOE and Board of Selectmen) demand a full answer and then wait to see the beef -- all of it -- before even thinking about letting the DAF start ripping up our grass fields. If not, the answer may someday be "It's in your tax bill."

Paul Michalski

Darien