MONROE, CT — A small crowd gathered behind the tennis courts at Wolfe Park on a chilly Tuesday afternoon. Despite the drizzling rain, everyone shared a sunny outlook because, after a 15-year-wait, town officials were finally about to break ground for two new ballfields.
“We started talking about this in 2008,” said Jonathan Stone, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission. “We have monthly meetings, so if you do the math, that’s 150 meetings on this. We finally brought it home. There were times when we didn’t know it would happen.”
Parks and Recreation Director Missy Orosz said the fields, known as the practice field and West Field, will be put to good use. “Currently, I don’t have enough room for all the programs,” she said.
Orosz said baseball, softball and lacrosse teams are sharing the fields on the Great Hollow Lake side of the park, adding some baseball and softball fields are lost to football in the fall.
More baseball and softball fields will be available once the two new fields are built and, because both will be level, Orosz said other programs, such as movie nights and a craft field day, can also be accommodated.
Nagy Brothers Construction Co., the Monroe-based contractor, is expected to start working on the fields soon. The work zone is already cordoned off with orange fencing and Orosz said Wolfe Park will stay open and active during construction.
Orosz said the work should be done by the fall, adding two years will needed to grow the grass and for settling. The hope is that both will be ready by 2026, she said.
The Town Council recently approved a contract for Solli Engineering, a Monroe firm, to do the engineering for the project, which was designed by architect Dave Sacco of TPA.
Doing it ‘the right way’
Stone credits First Selectman Ken Kellogg for his guidance and everyone else who helped to bring the fields project to fruition, including, Community and Economic Development Director William Holsworth and Planning and Zoning Administrator Rick Schultz.
All three men were at Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony.
“This was going on well before I took office,” Kellogg said. “I remember talking about it on the Town Council. We want to have fields that meet the needs of the community, but we have to do it the right way.”
When the requests for proposals went out for the project in 2018, the lowest bid came in around $850,000, which town officials found extremely high, according to Kellogg.
An effort was made to review the scope of the project again and some unnecessary costs were removed, he said. For example, the removal and replacement of historical stonewalls was found to be too costly.
Kellogg said Orosz used town resources, rather than hiring an outside contractor, to clear out some areas at a savings, removing dead trees to allow bidders to have a better view of the property and for a contractor to gain access to the fields. The Monroe Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments did the earthwork.
When an RFP for the project went out a second time, Nagy Brothers Construction, LLC, was chosen from among six contractors with a total bid of $555,000, well below the $850,000 from the first process.
Before the Town Council voted to approve the contractor, in a memo, Kellogg told members the bid was within the total identified funding for the project of $750,000, “which is a combination of funds available from prior bonding and previously authorized funds from the Wilton Estate, the Wolfe Park Field Assessment fund, and available funds in the Parks & Recreation Program fund.”
Passing the finish line
Everyone involved in the project praised one another for their contributions.
Bill Phillips, deputy director of public works, attended Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony, along with Schultz, Holsworth, Town Councilwoman Dee Dee Martin, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Samantha McGoldrick, and Town Treasurer Frank Dutches.
Ray Kobza, president of the Youth Football League, and Roger Daigle, a board member, third grade football coach, and board member for youth lacrosse and Bantam Boys Lacrosse, also attended the ceremony.
Among the local dignitaries was State Rep. Tony Scott, R-112th, who served as chairman of the Monroe Parks and Recreation Commission when the fields project was first discussed.
“I’m super excited to see this through to the end,” Scott said of the project. “I’m really looking forward to seeing what it looks like. When I was chair, the Parks and Recreation Commission got quotes and designs. It cleared many hurdles along the way. I’m glad Missy kept the ball rolling and got it passed the finish line.”
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