Readfield town hall to include votes on sports complex and broadband internet service

An artist’s rendering by RS Leonard Landscape Architecture and Main-Land Development Consultants shows a concept plan for the community park and conservation project at Readfield. City residents are expected to vote at Tuesday’s town hall on the $700,000 sports complex proposed for the Church Road exit. Rendered courtesy of the Town of Readfield

READFIELD – A proposal to build a $700,000 sports complex is among the top issues for residents to vote on at Tuesday’s town hall at Kents Hill School’s Harold and Ted Alfond Athletic Center.

The facility, which would be built on the 36-acre Readfield Fairgrounds municipal property off Church Road, would include a softball field near the existing Keene Community Recreation Park ball diamond and a multipurpose court for basketball and pickleball.

The project, intended to create recreational opportunities for residents of all ages, would include amenities, such as a concession stand for community and sporting events. It would also involve digging a well for drinking water and water from the cemetery, and creating a site for portable toilets.

The project would also include converting the existing parking lot on the land to grassland, removing the access road that divides the area of ​​the land, and creating an organized pollinator garden to help sustain the existing life on the land.

Project advocates said they were delighted to see a central location dedicated to recreation and community events, and a place for children to play.

Opponents expressed concern over the potential environmental impact, cost, and proposed location.

In a June 1 letter to the editor, published in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, Readfield resident Greg Durgin said the Readfield Elementary School sports field needed improvement and that it was large enough to accommodate the plan. He said an alternative site, such as the primary school, could save taxpayers a lot of money, while mitigating the environmental impact.

Durgin is a member of the Readfield Trails Committee and the Readfield Conservation Commission, but he said his views are not representative of either group, whose members have differing views on the project.

Bruce Hunter, chairman of the Readfield Conservation Commission, said the group had worked to create a document setting out their concerns about the proposed project, with pros and cons listed at the top.

The Readfield Fairgrounds property near Church Road, which could be the site of new sports grounds, includes walking trails and the Keene Community Recreation Park ball diamond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Advantages include that the central location would be convenient, two pitches at one location would benefit summer programs, and the combined pitches could be used for other sporting activities, including soccer, or community events, such as Days. heritage or Halloween. The commission is in favor of the project using existing infrastructure.

The downsides include the loss of critical habitat for pollinators and monarch butterflies, which are in serious decline in part due to the loss of critical breeding habitats, such as fairgrounds. Members of the commission are also concerned about the impact on wetlands, available parking capacity, cost of the project and lack of adherence to the town’s fairgrounds management plan and its guidelines for developments. offered.

The commission also cited possible uses for the concession stand, water and electricity that are not compatible with other uses of the fairgrounds.

In their report, commission members said that using existing school land would have less environmental impact and cost less.

City manager Eric Dyer said the elementary school was on a fairly inaccessible road near the outskirts of town. He said there might not be adequate parking and that creating a community recreation area might be an inherent conflict with existing school activities.

“It’s just not the right location, and we have a location in town that sits next to a beautiful trail system and could add value by connecting the existing baseball diamond to create a much-needed multi-purpose space. bigger,” Dyer said. “It’s not that we haven’t considered it an option. We did, but it was just a really bad choice.

“Beyond the fact that we don’t own this property and need to figure out a way to have a management agreement, I’m not even sure we could fit a regulation size softball field there.”

The Readfield Fairgrounds property near Church Road, which could be the site of new sports grounds, includes walking trails and the Keene Community Recreation Park ball diamond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Dyer said the project would not be a major sports complex. Instead, he said it would be more of a community park, adding that there is habitat for wildlife and the city is working to lessen the environmental impact.

“In my opinion, this is a very, very necessary community project,” he said. “The pandemic has taught us that outdoor recreation in our community is very important.

Hunter said the commission was also concerned about PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” that could be introduced with soil used to level the field area.

“The city agreed to sample the soil for PFAS,” Hunter said, “even though it’s a very difficult compound to sample.”

The project was originally proposed about a year ago, and Hunter said part of a compromise reached between the city and the commission states that the softball field would be rotated to preserve half of the prairie habitat. . The rotation, Hunter said, would also put the land on flatter ground, meaning less backfill would be needed.

The Readfield Trails Committee has agreed not to take an official position on the sports complex because committee members have differing views on the proposal.

“We have decided to leave it up to each member of the trails committee to pursue their interests as they see fit,” said committee chair Robert Peale.

Peale said he supported the proposed project and location.

“I think it’s the right place, personally, because it’s close to school, the beach, and downtown,” Peale said. “It’s as close to being a real neighborhood as anywhere else in Readfield in terms of population density. Readfield has other neighborhoods, but they are much more spread out.

The cost of the project was estimated to be between $500,000 and $700,000, which would be paid over 20 years through a municipal bond. Dyer said the $500,000 estimate had risen to $700,000, with engineers citing increased costs, including fuel.

The question on the mandate of the municipal assembly asks voters if they want to raise up to $500,000 on the proposed project, which would cover most of the cost.

The Readfield Fairgrounds property near Church Road, which could be the site of new sports grounds, includes walking trails and the Keene Community Recreation Park ball diamond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Dyer said the Land and Water Conservation Fund could offer up to a 50% matching grant, and if the matter is approved, it would show other granting agencies that the city has its matching funds in hand and has stood firm. engaged in the project. .

Voters are also expected to vote on a draft deal with Axiom Technologies on Tuesday. If approved, the city would enter into a two-year construction contract and an operating contract – with an initial term not exceeding 12 years – to create and operate a city-owned fiber to the local network, which would provide high-speed internet access to every home and business in Readfield.

The city would use $135,770 in federal pandemic relief funds and up to $4,864,230 from a previously approved 20-year municipal bond to complete the project.

Residents already approved the city’s ability to raise up to $5 million for high-speed fiber-optic internet at a special town meeting last November.

Dyer said the city envisions this as a public-private partnership, meaning the city would pay for the network the same way it pays for roads. Therefore, residents wishing to register would pay approximately two-thirds of the overall cost of the service.

The proposed rates would range from $40 per month for symmetric 100 Mbps service to $140 per month for 1 Gbps service.

Dyer said that while many residents have internet access, most city residents have connection speeds well below 100 Mbps, which the state is beginning to use as a threshold for reliable internet service.

Because so many residents have slow connection speeds, the city would likely qualify for a grant to help offset some of the costs, according to Dyer.

Residents are also invited to elect two board members for a three-year term. Incumbent Kathryn Woodsum-Mills comes out against challengers Robert Bittar, Steve DeAngelis and Eric Johnson.

And in the race for the Regional School Unit 38 board of trustees, Cristobal Alvarado, Peter Bickerman, Travis Frautten and Rebecca Lambert are vying for a three-year term on the board, while voters can also nominate candidates in writing for fill one out. -, term of two and three years on the school committee.

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