Canton BOF approves funding for relocation of Dyer softball field
By John Fitts
CANTON – The Board of Finance on Nov. 30 unanimously approved a funding plan to relocate the Little League softball field on Dyer Avenue to a currently wooded area at the Canton Middle/High School campus at 76 Simonds Ave.
The plan is in the works due to the town’s future plans to likely use some portion of current field for a new Collinsville fire house.
The finance board on Monday held a public hearing and approved the funding for the $297,500 project by voting to accept a state Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant of $128,205 and agreeing to take $169,295 from the town’s undesignated fund balance.
The fund balance is currently $7.67 million, or 18.86 percent of the town’s 2020-21 budgeted expenses of $40.68 million.
Traditionally the finance board has looked to keep that fund at a level of at least 15 percent. (Ratings agencies such as Moody's look to a town's fund balance, among other things, when assigning a rating, which measures expected investor loss in the event of a default.)
Following the transfer, Canton's fund balance will still be 18.44 percent, officials said.
Final approval for the project is still needed from the Board of Selectmen, which will host a virtual public hearing Dec. 9 (See below)
Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner said, of the three estimates the town received, two were more than $600,000 and the other in excess of $400,000.
However, much of the infrastructure at the current field, such as the scoreboard and bleachers, can be reused and the cost was kept lower because some of the installation and related work, such as walkway construction, would be done by the Public Works Department, Skinner said. The new field would include a 200-foot outfield, allowing tournament play, something that is not possible at the Dyer Field, officials said.
Additionally, officials touted the location because it's town owned, it has ADA accessible parking, public utilities are available and that it's next to the current girls softball field at the high school.
Skinner shared a conceptual plan with finance board members but cautioned that it could change.
Notably, the town is looking into whether the field could be reoriented, making it easier to share amenities between fields and move it a little farther away from a nearby house on Simonds Avenue.
Town officials do not expect the new field to be ready for use until September 2022. Pending town approvals and other actions, construction is estimated to begin in July of 2021.
The finance board received just a few comments on the plan, all them positive. Prior to voting, members expressed their appreciation of the grant, the town’s work to lower the cost and said they felt the balance was a good use of funds.
“This is one of the times the town absolutely benefits from us using fund balance for the town to … increase the quality of our life,” board member Ken Humphrey said.
"I agree with Ken 100 percent and the nice thing is we’re keeping our fund balance at a very healthy level because we know, especially with COVID, we may have some other unexpected expenses coming up and we know we still have a little buffer for that,” added member Sarah Faulkner. “I’m very comfortable with this. I’m very pleased about the grant and this is a good use of the fund balance.”
First Selectman Bob Bessel added, "Town staff has done a tremendous job pulling together resources, looking at this thing from all angles, reaching out to all the stakeholders on this to make sure everybody’s been heard and all the needs have been met. … I’m really proud of the effort put forward here and the result that we got. We seem to have been able to balance all the community’s needs in the proposal before you."
Following is the notice for the Dec. 9 hearing.
December 9, 2020 Virtual Meeting
People can hear the meeting and make comments/questions by calling one of the following numbers:
1 312 626 6799 1 929 436 2866 1 301 715 8592 1 346 248 7799 1 669 900 6833 1 253 215 8782
Webinar ID: 889 6180 5965 Passcode: 252414
Or view the meeting by using the following link:
The Board of Selectmen will hold a virtual public hearing on Wednesday, December 9, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. to take comments on the following matter:
Whether the Board of Selectmen shall approve a Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant in the amount of $128,205 to partially fund the relocation of Dyer Softball Field to the Canton Middle/High School located at 76 Simonds Avenue and approve the transfer of $169,295 from the undesignated fun balance to the Capital Improvement Plan account to fund the remaining cost of relocating the softball field.