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Fields Get Green Light

City authorizes to move forward with three athletic fields, including the controversial Stafford field.

The City Council may have postponed several items from its Tuesday, July 24 agenda, but it pushed through the recently controversial ball field proposals in an effort to get things moving before the August recess.

The City Council appropriated $5.8 million for a variety of athletic field projects last month, but the parks and recreation department brought in some new, higher figures at the July 24 meeting that forced councilmembers to pick and choose the way the funds are spent.

The $5.8 million figure lumps the construction of the Stafford West rectangular field with improvements to fields a Providence Park and Draper Drive Park. It originally included expanding the fields at the Westmore property and the Green Acres property. Since the Stafford proposal went from two fields to one, after a lot of community opposition to the project, the earth fill from that property became significantly less that it would have been with two fields. The fill would have been transferred to Green Acres to complete the project there in an effort to keep the overall project as cost efficient as possible, according to Mike McCarty, the city’s parks and recreation director.

Westmore fell back on the priority list also because of the changes at Draper. Adding just one artificial rectangular field at Draper would have kept Westmore on the front burner, said Mayor Robert Lederer, but now that Draper includes two turf fields, Westmore can wait.

"I think there’s some real prudence to doing Draper and getting it done, and doing it first class," he said.

So now the proposal looks slightly different with Green Acres and Westmore off the table. The city is now focusing on the Draper and Providence improvements, in addition to the construction of Stafford. In an effort to at least get the bidding process underway for the artificial turf at the three fields — one at Stafford and two at Draper — the council agreed to move forward, even though it hasn’t yet determined whether lights are going to be included at Draper.

"I’m sure the people in Cambridge Station haven’t had the opportunity to absorb this; we need to carefully roll this out to the community," said Councilmember Gary Rasmussen, referring to the upcoming public hearing.

A public hearing for the lighting issue is now scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11, but the council went ahead with ordering the three fields because the bidding process would work out more in the city’s favor if the three fields are lumped together into one bid, said McCarty.

"I think by bidding three fields for synthetic turf is better for cost … and for getting on the construction schedule by late fall or early winter [as opposed to next spring or summer]," McCarty said.

Rasmussen also noted that Draper Drive Park is surrounded on two sides by Fairfax County. Those residents use the park too, so Rasmussen asked his colleagues to remain mindful about the trails, bathrooms and lights proposed there.

As for Providence Park, the council snuffed the basketball court proposal and kept the two tennis courts. Members agreed the tennis courts were the priority, and that the difficult topography of the area where the basketball court would go made it less of a priority, especially because of the cost of building such a court.

"It’s hard for me to justify a basketball court for 200 and some thousand dollars," Lederer said.

IN OTHER COUNCIL NEWS

* Council granted a five-year deed of easement ordinance between Motiva Enterprises LLC and the City, regarding the installation of pipes and equipment within the Pickett Road right-of-way, which is adjacent to the Motiva facility and tank farm. The equipment would transfer unremediated ground water between the Stockbridge common area and the tank farm. The remediation effort has been continuing since 1992 — around the same time a tank farm fuel spill created environmental hazards in the area. Motiva installed a pumping system in the Stockbridge common area after the spill, and the remediation process is now about 75 percent complete, said David Summers, the city’s director of public works.

"The [Environmental Protection Agency] said it could be 30 years for this cleanup, so I think we’re really much further ahead," said City Manager Bob Sisson.

* City Council approved the transfer of $188,749 in private donations and grant money to the City of Fairfax. The money, for the Blenheim property and Grandma’s Cottage, will go toward capital improvements at those properties.

* Mayor Robert Lederer expressed the council’s interest in following up with dialogue about building a potential community center for the city. Brian Knapp, president of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, or PRAB, presented the city with updated statistics on the need for a community center. He showed several options, including updating the existing Green Acres building, building a new facility on that site instead, or building a community center at Van Dyck Park. Lederer said the Council would discuss options further after the August recess.