20 Aug 2014
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Recreation Head: Lights at EPCAL 'Not Gonna Happen' for Now

Not enough town board support for selling $800,000 in bonds to install lights at EPCAL baseball fields.

Recreation Head: Lights at EPCAL 'Not Gonna Happen' for Now

After Recreation Superintendent Ray Coyne made a pitch to the town board last week to get lights on new ballfields in Calverton, he said on Wednesday afternoon that the field will be opening without them.

"It's not gonna happen," he said.

At last Thursday's town board work session, the board appeared split over bonding roughly $800,000 to install lights at new fields at Enterprise Park at Calverton, on Route 25.

While Councilman Jim Wooten said going without lights would be "like moving into a house with no furniture" - and Councilman John Dunleavy agreed - Supervisor Sean Walter called the measure irresponsible to the town's credit rating, with Councilman George Gabrielsen on his side.

"We run the risk of a credit downgrade if we keep spending money we don't have," Walter said last week. Walter referred back to a Moody's credit affirmation the town received in November, as the town maintained its Aa2 rating. The supervisor has cited the rating, allowing the town to continue borrowing at relatively low rates (3.5 percent now, he said), as one of his main accomplishments during his tenure at town hall.

The supervisor, and Financial Administrator Bill Rothaar, said that conversations with credit rating agents during their fall meetings indicated that any future borrowing could adversely affect the town's rating, both said.

Coucilwoman Jodi Giglio appeared at first to favor bonding for the lights, calling the lit fields a marketing draw for sports teams. However in the end the math wasn't convincing enough.

Giglio said on Tuesday night that she wanted to see more - and more promising - numbers from Coyne confirming the revenue the town could realize if lights were added to the park. Gabrielsen, the town board's liaison to the Recreation Committee, said the town would kick into an "aggressive fundraising mode" in reaching out to leagues to fill the fields this summer and beyond.

"Once I see contracts - we know we have teams who want to play - I know the rest of the board will be excited as I will be," she said.

Coyne said he fears that installing lights at a later date will not only present a missed opportunity to the town until they are installed, but also bear a future cost, since cranes will have to be brought onto the field to install the light poles, potentially damaging the walkways and fields. Gabrielsen said he didn't foresee a future problem.

The town still plans on paving walkways, 200 spaces in parking lots, install dugouts, and new fencing along Route 25 before the fields open. Wednesday night it votes to publish and post a bid for parking lot work.

While Gabrielsen said he'd like to see the fields open by Memorial Day weekend, Coyne said they may not open until mid-June.

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