PARKS AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF MEETING OF October 13, 2011
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 7:00 PM in the Township meeting room. In attendance and voting were Chairman Andrew Levine, Vice Chairman Joel Grosso, Kathy Kelly and Mark McMenamin, members. Also present were Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko and Supervisor Liaison Philip Calabro
Call to Order: Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Grosso moved to accept the minutes of September 12, 2011. Mr. Levine seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Helen Randle Park: Mrs. Pawlenko reported that Rock Softball has committed to repairing fields damaged by recent tournament activity. Park and Recreation Board member Anne Porter has agreed to take a more active role in tournaments held the Township.
Skate Park: Mrs. Pawlenko reported that she and Public Works Director Gary Crossland have been reviewing costs associated with a fence at the skate park and have begun looking at safety fences and netting between the skate park and soccer field. Our insurance carrier is requiring an 8 foot fence between the two park areas. Park and Recreation Board member Denis D’Arcy, who has been an active member of the skate park committee, has asked for a Jersey Barrier between the park and the Bypass. She is looking into this as well.
Veterans Park: Landscape Architect Chris Green of Gilmore & Associates was in attendance to review progress on the playing fields in the park. He said that in September, Adams Bickel began turf establishment procedures as recommended by Penn State’s cooperative extension. The fields have been aerated five times, fertilized, then aerated again. All fields were then slit seeded. The grass is beginning to germinate and grow. The growing should take hold before the first frost.
Mr. Levine asked about watering the fields.
Mr. Green said that watering will be done if needed, as part of the maintenance contract. The seeding process will be repeated at the end of the winter, as will fertilization and weed control.
Mr. Levine asked whether the fields would be available for play for the fall 2012 season.
Mr. Green said that he thought they would be ready by then.
Mr. Levine asked about watering through the spring.
Mr. Green said that watering is part of the spring plan. He noted that there have been problems with geese at the park. Mr. Green reviewed the Penn State recommendations, noting that the contractor is completing all of the recommended steps, including aerating five times. He said that irrigation had not been spelled out specifically in the park bids as part of construction activity.
Mr. Levine asked who would be responsible to contact the contractor to keep up irrigation if we have a dry spring growing season.
Mr. Green said both the Township and the engineers should contact the contractor about irrigation through the spring.
Mr. Grosso noted that the Park and Recreation Board has been concerned about irrigation throughout the entire process, but has been ignored.
Mr. Levine said that it is unfortunate that the contractor did not consider this part of its contractual obligation and the Township had stood firm on its position of not getting involved.
Resident Margaret Chleboski what could be done to avoid similar problems in the future.
Mr. Levine said that the dry weather in 2010 was a contributor to the difficulties with growing grass on the fields, and the Township did not want to directly remedy the problem by allowing the sports organizations or Public Works to water when it was apparent the contractor was not watering. The Park and Recreation Board was kept out of the process and was not consulted on the moving of topsoil or on irrigation.
The members discussed the removal of topsoil from the project. It has been the feeling of many on the Park and Recreation Board and those involved with the sports organizations, that the lack of adequate topsoil contributed to the poor field conditions and it was unclear to the Park and Recreation Board why the soil was removed.
Mr. Calabro suggested that this had not been discussed in depth by the Board of Supervisors and that it was a Township administrative decision to allow the removal to offset some of the additional costs for rock removal.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that she had been shown some e-mails suggesting that the Supervisors had been involved in the topsoil decision. She agreed to try to find the e-mails to Mr. Calabro.
Mr. Levine said that the topsoil was not the only problem with the grass; the Park and Recreation Board had asked for an irrigation system as part of the initial construction phase, but that had been removed from the plans to save money. He reminded the members that initially, the Park and Recreation Board had expected the park to be financed in part by the municipal complex bond issue. It was later decided by the Supervisors to downscale the scope of the first phase of the park instead.
Resident Kevin O’Shea said that the topsoil would have aided with germination earlier.
Mr.Grosso agreed; he said that although the fields had been seeded in the spring of 2011, the grass never germinated. The soil was not treated or watered. It has now been four growing seasons without any growth. He said that soil analysis should have been done much earlier.
Mr. Green said that testing had been done in spring of 2009, but the weather was very dry.
Mr. Levine said that the Township has had a number of stand-offs with the contractor, including goose management and irrigation. Irrigation should have been installed in the park.
Mr. O’Shea said that even portable irrigation systems could have helped earlier on. He asked why the work on the NCAA field was done sooner than the others.
Mr. Green said that work was delayed again this fall by bad weather.
Mr. O’Shea asked whether the fields would be available for play in the spring season.
Mr. Grosso said that he would like the skinned fields to be a priority so they can be used for tee-ball.
Mr. O’Shea said that no pitchers mounds or home plates have been installed, either.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that apparently these were not specified in the contract.
Mr. McMenamin said that as a professional landscape architect, he felt certain that ballfields would never be built without mounds.
Mr. O’Shea and Mr. Grosso pointed out that the fields seem to have four bases instead of three bases and a home plate. Mr. Grosso said that someone from the Park and Recreation Board should have regularly monitored progress on the project to assure that everything progressed properly. The Park and Recreation Board should not have been kept out of the process, especially the turf issues.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that in addition to the issues with the grass and the playing fields, she had a number of other issues to be addressed, including a washed out area in the parking lot and some problems in the pavilion and restrooms. Although all of her other concerns were noted during walk-throughs, none have been addressed.
Mr. Levine said that the Jason Cohen family has been raising funds for a playground in memory of their son, Noah. They have raised more than $45,000. It might be necessary to raise as much as $75,000 to $80,000 for the complete project, including site preparation and safety surfaces.
Safety Priorities for Parks: Mr. Levine said that there seems to be some confusion about the need for fencing at the skate park. He would like the insurance company to clarify whether the fencing is needed only for preventing soccer balls from flying onto the skate park or to prevent cars from crashing onto the park from the Bypass. This could influence the choices for fencing.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that in addition to these reasons, fencing would allow the park to be locked when equipment is in need of repair and enables the police to better enforce hours of operation. In addition to fencing, both the Park and Recreation Department and the Police Department are considering requesting motion sensor lights for security in all parks as part of the 2012 budget.
Mr. Levine noted that the various reasons for fencing could influence the design and heights chosen and could impact the costs.
Roberts Ridge Park: Mrs. Pawlenko reported that the insurance company has settled the vandalism claim and repairs will begin shortly. In addition, arrests have been made in the case.
Clark Nature Center: Mrs. Pawlenko reported that the EAC has been helping with some park clean-up and has received a $500 mini-grant from DCNR for invasive species removal and tree planting. Council Rock’s life skills classes have been helping in the park as well. EAC has asked the LINCS coordinator at Council Rock to help find some volunteers for some of the work needed in the park.
Park and Recreation Director’s Report
Mrs. Pawlenko reported that the Helen Randle fields had been damaged during a Rock Softball tournament, but Rock Softball has agreed to make the necessary repairs. Because there have occasionally been problems in our parks with damages caused by user groups, Mrs. Pawlenko would like the Board to consider including some facility use/repair language in our agreements. She provided copies of the language used in Northampton’s user agreements and asked the Board to consider adopting a similar policy.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that she is planning to review the procedures for tournament use of the park, perhaps streamlining the process to combine the pre-event meetings for series of tournaments by the same organization.
Mr. McMenamin suggested perhaps a monthly meeting with the user groups rather than an individual meeting prior to each tournament might streamline the process.
Mr. McMenamin said that he had asked about the cost to our Public Works department to maintain the fields in the parks. He would like to pursue some kind of agreement for the leagues to completely maintain the fields in exchange for a reduction in the field usage fees.
Mr. Levine said that he had approached the Supervisors about such a concept but they seemed to be opposed to any reduction in fees.
Mr. McMenamin suggested that he would like to act as a liaison between the leagues and the Township on field maintenance and usage.
The meeting adjourned at 8:45 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary