Council Weights Cottone Field Options
WETHERSFIELD - With the Wethersfield High School renovation project wrapped up, the Town Council will be looking ahead to the replacement of Cottone Field, but around 100 or so residents came to the regular meeting last Monday night to remind them that they, to, consider it a priority.

       The field-constructed about 13 years ago-came with an 8 year warranty and a 10 year lifespan. Parents, coaches, and players consider it’s deteriorating, uneven surface a potential safety risk, and asked the Council to find a way to move forward with the replacement as soon as budgetary constraints will allow.

       “We knew that when the high school was completed, the next task was going to be the replacement of Cottone Field,” said Town Manager Jeff Bridges at the start of the meeting.

       Upon completing the WHS renovation, town met with its CIP Advisory Committee, which recommended moving forward.

       The problem is the cost-the full replacement runs between $700,000 and $800,000, when the town’s CIP fund totals around $900,000-according to Bridges.

       “If we were to pay for this in one lump sum, there wouldn’t be enough to do any other projects,” he said.

       The town is also waiting for its WHS project debt service-set to peak next year-to wind down because they don’t want those costs compounding with work on the field, Bridges said.

       One possible avenue is to pursue a leasing plan-one similar to what the town entered in when the field was first constructed in 2004. In that scenario, the town would pay for the replacement in much smaller, yearly increments, Bridges said.

       That just might be the town’s best option, said Stathis Manousos, a former Town Councilor and the current President of the George D. Ritchie Soccer Club-a frequent user of the facility.

       “We have a first class concept, and a second class field itself,” Manousos said at the meeting. “If there really is a will to fix this, we can find a way.”

       While a lease payment plan-in a scenario in which the town decided to go that route-has not yet been definitively laid out, “best estimates” at this time fall somewhere between $110,000 and $150,000 per year, Bridges said in an email.

       For now, the Council will weigh whether to pursue the project this summer or the next. Mayor Paul Montinieri said that there’s no question that it needs to be done, and the cost scenario is unlikely to change from year to year.

       “This is much more likely to be urgent than deferred, but one thing we have to do is get a handle on the timeframe so we do not risk having a field that’s not ready for the start of the season,” Montinieri said.

       During a lengthy public comments segment at the start of the meeting, Councilors heard from concerned parents, as well as players-high school football and soccer athletes that frequently utilize the facility for home games and practices.

       “It should’ve been replaced in 2013,” said Melissa Whitaker, who has three kids that play at Cottone. “I think it’s time to bring this up to the high standards of this town, for the safety of our kids.”

       The field could present an additional cost issue if further deterioration prompts practices and home games to be moved, said Colleen Keane, another resident.