Following some concerns and criticisms about installation costs on social media sites, Newtown’s Parks and Recreation Director Amy Mangold released a document detailing the expenses related to Oakview Field.
Assistant Parks Director Carl Samuelson produced the report following a request from Legislative Council Vice Chair Mary Ann Jacob for detailed financial accounting of costs related to her department’s newest playing venue on Wasserman Way.
Mr Samuelson opens responding to some of the public concerns regarding the park’s development.
“The Oakview Field renovation project is an ambitious project that has come under a critical eye during a tough economic climate where all functions of the Town are being rightfully scrutinized,” he wrote.
“The rumored waste, inefficiency, and excessive costs at Oakview could not be further from the truth," Mr Samuelson continued. "Although we originally intended to start construction last fall, Hurricane Irene and winter storm Alfred had different ideas. These two storms set us back over 12 weeks, pushing start dates back to when other work had been previously scheduled.”
Mr Samuelson also pointed out that his department’s construction of the new field began in the spring, versus the fall, when town crews are much less pressed to address seasonal issues related to opening department facilities and readying them for spring sports and activities.
The parks supervisor said although his crew members had fewer hours to dedicate, they were able to screen more than 8,000 cubic yards of topsoil, and excavate the base despite 24 days lost to rain or conditions too muddy to work.
“Our only other delay was the loss of use of a Public Works loader, which was out of service for repairs for a number of weeks,” he reported.
Mr Samuelson said that labor hours, construction sequence, and scheduled opening dates remained on track despite the later start date, and available labor hours, which extended the duration of construction. He noted that the original anticipated labor usage was 1,200 hours for this project, and that as of the date of the final report, parks staff used 492.
He also addressed a decision to utilize staff on overtime, on May 12 noting the use of a leased screening plant terminated on May 13, and 22 overtime hours were approved at a cost of $677.49 versus paying out an additional $2,500 in lease expense for the screener.
Project Cost History
The parks official said his department originally sought to budget $250,000 from the CIP for the Oakview reconstruction project, with plans to pay for the balance out of the department’s user surcharge account. He said construction estimates ten years ago, from Milone and Macbroom, were $300,000– $330,000.
According to the report, the original Oakview capital budget request was $68,000. At the same time, there was a $50,000 request to renovate one of three little league fields located behind the Reed School.
These figures included more than $40,000 that would have been allocated toward lease expenses of a bulldozer needed to complete these projects. After failing as capital requests, and realizing that the Parks Department could purchase a suitable machine for less than $50,000, the capital requests were modified, reducing cost to renovate each field by $20,000 as machine ownership would negate the need to lease such equipment.
The Parks and Recreation Commission moved to fund the full $48,000, and $15,000 of the little league field out of its own surcharge account if the Town supported the capital acquisition of a used bulldozer for $50,000. Based on past spending to lease such equipment between Parks and Recreation and Public Works, and savings demonstrated for these two projects, the purchase was approved as a capital line item.
Since acquiring the bulldozer last October, the machine has clocked about 400 hours of use between the Parks and Recreation and Public Works Departments. Use has been primarily been on the Oakview project, but has been used for the emergency parking lot repair at Treadwell, the solar installation at the sewage treatment plant, the batting cage installation at Fairfield Hills, the Litchfield Hall site leveling, and the animal control facility construction.
Rental Versus Purchase
At the current hourly bid cost of $70 per hour, the new bulldozer has saved the town about $27,000 in rental expense, and if properly maintained, the expected useful life for this machine is 15–20 years.
Mr Samuelson also used the opportunity to review the current responsibilities and expectations of the parks crew, and provided to the extent possible, a breakdown of specific financials related to Oakview, including labor costs tied to these duties.
The report indicates that Oakview Field was seeded in the spring of 2013 and cultivated throughout the summer. Various tasks were completed over the summer such as parking lot grading, gate installation, irrigation installation, and shrub planting, and the field opened, as scheduled, for the fall soccer season on Labor Day weekend.
Some items, which may not appear as an expense, were either repurposed from other town projects, or donated. An example of this is the entrance gate. This gate was originally at the front of the FFH campus.
Although the town purchased irrigation components, the pipe and sprinkler installation labor was donated. This donation freed up funds in the budget to allow for the purchase of the perimeter trees and shrubs, which were not part of the original plan.
Remaining items, shown as anticipated expenses, include minor electrical work and outstanding invoices. This field was built using Parks and Recreation staff and very limited use of Public Works staff.
Very early in the project Public Works had used the Oakview site to conduct some operator training and recently parks crews utilized the town grader and operator for roughly seven hours to grade the parking area prior to bumper installation.
Parks and Recreation used a total of 1,005 labor hours to complete this project, which is below the original estimate of 1,100. Furthermore, 73 of these hours were spent planting shrubs, donated trees, and mowing. These items were not in the original scope or would be part of the department’s normal workload bringing the construction total to 932 hours, the report states.
Park and Recreation Commission Chairman Ed Marks praised the department’s work, saying the project was completed on schedule and at “significant taxpayer savings.
“I’m thrilled with the park, and thrilled it was completed for under $50,000,” Mr Marks told The Bee.