BEDFORD — After voters failed to approve a $4 million bond to expand and improve athletic fields in town, a separate proposal to install artificial turf at Sportsman Field has also been rejected by residents.
Last week at the polls, residents did not support a proposed $4 million bond for field improvements, which included amended user fees for all leagues that use town fields.
“The recreation leagues did not support that bond,” said Bill Greiner of Bedford.
However, during the budgetary town meeting last week, Greiner attempted to amend the operating budget to allocate slightly more than $1 million for the purpose of converting Sportsman Field on Nashua Road from grass to turf.
Greiner recommended using $855,000 from the town’s unassigned fund balance, as well as $150,000 from recreation impact fees to fund the turf project.
“There is no tax impact to what I have just imposed,” Greiner told voters who were in attendance.
Town Councilor Kelleigh Murphy said the town council is elected to put together a budget, explaining there are public hearings in advance of the budgetary town meeting to address these types of issues.
“I feel like coming here tonight with such a small fraction of voters circumvents that process,” said Murphy.
She maintained that whether the funds are raised by taxes or removed from a reserve fund, it is still money that is being allocated.
Town Council Chairman Bill Duschatko said town officials spent months creating a comprehensive plan to fix recreational facilities in town — not just Sportsman Field. He said every effort was made to be inclusive throughout the project and ensure that residents were informed prior to last week’s vote.
Frank Sledjeski of Global Premier Soccer and the Bedford Youth Soccer League said Sportsman Field is in “utter disarray,” explaining that if the field is converted to turf, it will alleviate some of the heavy use on other town fields.
During last Wednesday’s budgetary town meeting, voters rejected the proposal to spend about $1 million to convert the field to turf.
They did, however, support a $31.2 million town budget, which includes the hiring of six new town employees — a human resources director, police department watch commander, police dispatcher, equipment operator, public works truck driver and an administrative technician for the fire, building and health departments.
The budget also changes an existing assistant children’s librarian position from part-time to full-time, and funds a full year’s salary for the public works business manager hired in the middle of 2018.
Officials are predicting that the town portion of the tax rate will increase from $4.54 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to about $4.65 or less.
Also included in the budget is approximately $1.2 million to make improvements to the town’s transfer station and upgrades to the library’s parking lot and septic system.