All 13 Articles on the Special Town Meeting warrant were passed Tuesday night, but none drew as large a crowd as Article 4, which asked voters to appropriate $1.1 million for a synthetic turf field and other renovations to Sabourin Stadium.
Article 4 passed with 487 voters in favor of adopting the article and 157 opposed after Selectmen Michael Rosenberg asked Town Meeting members to waive Article 1 Item A on the warrant, which limits speakers presenting an article to ten minutes.
"It's not our intention to have a filibuster but this could go on for 11 minutes," Rosenberg said to laughs from the crowd.
Outdoor Recreation Area Study Committee member David Sukoff presented the committee's report finding a shortage in both available hour of field use in Bedford and in total number of fields.
Sukoff said there is currently a shortfall of approximately 1000 hours of field use in Bedford based on demand, and that turfing Sabourin would provide 600 hours of additional field use toward this deficit.
"There was a thought during Spring Town Meeting that we need to do something about this, and now we have the analysis and backup," Sukoff said.Looking for updates on local government? Subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Rosenberg said the town plans to ask participants in Bedford youth recreational sports leagues to pay a $20 surcharge to go toward the cost of turfing Sabourin, as well as renting the field to adult sports teams during off hours for school and town teams.
ORASC predicted the synthetic field would provide an additional 300 hours annually for the town to rent out to adult and club sports teams, and Rosenberg estimated approximately $58,000 annually coming from field rental that would go toward the cost of the field.
The Selectmen and Finance Committee both recommended approval on Article 4, with Capital Expenditure Committee recommending disapproval on the basis that the cost of turfing Sabourin was being taken out of context of the other projects the Town would like to tackle during Spring Town Meeting.
Bedford School Committee member Anne Bickford said School Committee voted 4 to 1 in support of Article 4.
"The data clearly established the degree to which demand outstrips supply," Bickford said.
Co-Chair of the Bedford Board of Health, Beatrice Brunkhorst said after completing a study of the possible dangers that come along with synthetic turf fields, the BOH determined the risks of turf are low.
"There is no current evidence that transmission of pathogens such as Staph or MRSA from contact with artificial turf is any greater than from natural grass," Brunkhorst said.
Town Meeting member Ken Hall asked how many years of use Bedford would get from the synthetic turf before having to do restoration, and expressed concern that younger athletes playing on Sabourin would be more susceptible to injury from playing on turf.
Rosenberg said the warranty on the field would be for eight years, but other towns ORASC had surveyed were getting 10 years out of their synthetic turf fields before having to do restorations.
Chair of Finance Committee, Michael Seibert, said he was concerned that ORASC might have been biased in their report, as most of the committee's members supported artificial turf at Sabourin.
"The committee that put the plan forward were proponents of the plan," Seibert said. "What you're looking at here is an article without negative consequences. "
Seibert said the Town would be sacrificing other projects where town money would be better spent, including dealing with an overcrowded high school, aging public safety vehicles and maintenance of roads and infrastructure.
"It would be nice to see this project in context of all these other projects," Seibert said.
Town Meeting member Jim O'Neill, of Clarke Road, said he was often disappointed when he would find out his grand children's soccer practices had been cancelled because of poor field condition.
"One artificial field is what the town needs," O'Neill said. "A lot of youth teams can use the fields, they don't need much room."
Joy Keenan, of Loomis Street, said she agreed with Seibert in that the ORASC report was biased due to the committee being composed largely of proponents of turfing Sabourin, and that she felt the town did not need an artificial turf field.
"While I agree with you your kids want turf, it's a four letter word, 'want'," Keenan said. "They don't require one."
Keenan also raised the concern that the Town would have to hire new employees to run the rental process of Sabourin for adult and club sports teams.
Rosenberg said the rental process would be run through the Recreation Department, and that the Selectmen had no plan to hire additional personnel.
A Town Meeting member moved to bring the article to a vote, with a mixed response, leading to a 559 to 69 vote in favor of bringing Article 4 to a vote.
Town Moderator Betsey Anderson made it clear that Town Meeting would finally be voting on whether to install an artificial turf field at Sabourin Stadium.
"We are voting on whether to fund and then build an artificial turf field," Anderson said.
Following the vote Article 4, which passed with 487 Town Meeting members in favor and 157 opposed, there was a round of applause and at least half of the crowd that showed up for Special Town Meeting took their leave.