|City Council President Karen Watts|
So – What’s going on with Memorial Field?
This question seems to be on the mind of so many residents, partially because there is so much misinformation floating around the community. While some are planning ‘Town Hall’ meetings, initiating petitions and creating committees, I would prefer to get the facts to the public.
The plans for the renovated Memorial Field do not include stands, locker rooms, and bathrooms on the visitor’s side, or lights anywhere!!!! THIS FACT is what is causing the delay of our vote. These items are on the ‘add / alternate list’! Now I know that the very beautiful rendering appearing all over the city is what we are expecting. But that rendering shows lights, seating for visitors and I know – presumably - visitor rest rooms. But sadly, no. The current plans do not!
In December of 2009, the last City Council supported over twenty million dollars in bonds. In that document there were pages and pages of resolutions. Within those pages were three items dedicated to the renewal of Memorial Field totaling $2,250,000.00. In 2010, the current City Council voted to support all three items even though there were no completed plans for Memorial Field. It was months later that County Legislator Lyndon D. Williams informed the Council that there was not enough bonds to support the field as pictured in the rendering, in spite of the fact that we voted for everything that he requested! To date, we still don’t have an answer as to why the Council seated in 2009 failed to request the funds needed to complete a quality project.
The Legacy Grant, funded through Westchester County, offered Mount Vernon $9.7 million to assist with the re-build. The ‘key’ word here is ‘assist’. It is a fact that $11,950,000.00 (the total of the County and Mt Vernon bonds) will not build the stadium in the picture one sees at city hall!
This Council, the majority of who began their term in 2010, had several meetings with Woodard and Curran, the developers selected in 2009 as design/consultants for the new field. During the last meeting, held February 15th, 2011, we were told that the plans were 95% finished. Legislator Williams attended this meeting. Yet on two occasions, we’ve been asked to authorize additional funds for their work. To date they have received nearly $900,000.00 for their design which is still incomplete.
So where are we now? The Council is being asked to agree to allow the Department of Public Works to seek an RFP (Request for Proposal) to build Memorial Field. We did not vote. Why?
Your Council is trying to find ways to fix this mess. This project should be a viable facility and revenue producer for our city. We are concerned that this will not suit our needs or assist in bringing in the much needed revenue to help support this facility and potentially add to the tax base of our city. The letter sent to the Council by the Recreation Commissioner Neglia states in part… ‘When it is complete, the City’s expectation is to host local sporting events as well as other significant events such as the New York State High School Football Championship finals, New York Empire State Games, international soccer events…’.
Our question is – HOW? Who would rent a field where the visiting team has no place to sit? Who would rent a field that cannot be used after 5:00pm during the football season? Even our young Razorbacks, who have been a source of pride for this city, practice after 5:00pm.
I am certain that the residents of this city are not looking for a field that has no lights! And it is not in the best interest for the citizens to have to pay more money for 'add alternates' that are clearly necessities.
It is, and will remain the intention of this Council to see that a quality product is delivered to our residents. We will not allow County representatives to offer to Mount Vernon a sub standard facility. Why should we? If we do not value ourselves, who will?
We do not want to see a ribbon cutting that must take place before dusk or endure future closings of the new field in order to upgrade a brand new facility!
On February 24th, 2011, I sent a letter to County Legislator Lyndon D. Williams outlining our position. The last sentence read as follows ‘It is my hope that you will assist us by working with us to accelerate the process so that we can get this work done correctly - the first time!
Any effort to persuade Mt. Vernonites to accept a facility so severely lacking is beyond comprehension.