By Bob Peryea

Correspondent

The Whitewater Common Council held a special meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the use of artificial turf on Treyton’s Field of Dreams.

After over two hours of testimony and public comment before a standing room only crowd in the Community Room of City Hall, the Council voted unanimously to approve the use of turf on the infield of the baseball field.

Their vote approves the contract proposal from the FieldTurf Company to provide the artificial grass and baselines for the ball field.

The room was filled to capacity with supporters of the Treyton’s Field of Dreams and those opposed to the use of artificial turf.

Television, radio and newspaper reporters watched as Matt Amundson, the City’s Parks and Recreation Director, stepped up to the podium to speak.

Amundson reviewed the project’s history from inception to today. He reminded the council that artificial turf has been part of the plans from the beginning.

He told the room that maintenance of a grass infield would require almost daily sweeping and cleanup, whereas artificial turf would likely only need to be maintained weekly.

Jay Onstad of the FieldTurf Company was on hand to answer questions from the Council.

Council Vice-President Lynn Binnie began by asking why Major League Baseball has gone away from artificial turf in recent years.

Onstad replied that it was because there were very few “multi-use facilities” any longer. Each sport has its own stadium in most cities now, so there is less need for the resilience of artificial turf. Onstad pointed out that there is increased use at the college level.

Amundson stepped in and said, “Any parks department in the state would be jealous of the maintenance that Major League Baseball can do.”

Councilmember Binnie asked what life expectancy the City would get from the artificial turf.

Onstad stated that there is a five-year warranty with a 10-12 year life expectancy.

He went on to explain that FieldTurf would supply maintenance equipment and training to the city.

Amundson also said that the maintenance crew from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, that has years of experience with FieldTurf products already, has offered to share their expertise.

The conversation then turned to the health concerns that had been expressed by constituents.

When asked about lead content, Onstad said that there is a small quantity of lead, but that this product has been approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Binnie asked, “Some of your competitors recommend the use of anti-microbial (solutions) on the turf. Does your company?”

“No,” Onstad replied.

“Why not?”

“They’re trying to sell you something,” Onstad said.  He went on to point out that staph, a common wound infection, is only passed by wound-to-wound contact.

The discussion then turned to disposal of the materials when the turf needs to be replaced.

“We just redid Camp Randall. We brought the materials to the city dump and to recycling,” Onstad said. “A lot of it was given to other organizations to reuse.”

In response to more questions from the Council, Amundson said he believed there would be about 40 games per week on the field and that the playing season would be significantly longer than it is currently.

“With the lights … I see us having three games night (during the summer),” Amundson said.

“I was one of the people who pushed to delay this a week. It’s our job to do due diligence,” said councilmember Jim Winship said.

“Studies are inconclusive. There’s not enough data to determine that there are health concerns,” he said.

Winship then asked Amundson about replacement of the field in 8 to 12 years.

“There’s a commitment to an endowment fund to support the field,” Amundson replied.

Each councilmember was then given time to explain their perspective on the issue and express any lingering concerns they had.

Council President Patrick Singer said, “This delay should not be interpreted as a lack of support for the project as a whole.”

He reiterated Binnie’s conclusion that the evidence of a health risk was inconclusive and that he believed that the project “will not have a significant long-term financial burden.”

Councilmember Stephanie Abbott said, “I was shocked (last week) to hear that there was a controversy.” She had not received any telephone calls or emails from constituents in advance of last week’s scheduled Council meeting.

“There’s a desire to not just preserve the memory of Treyton, but to give generations of kids the love of baseball,” she said.

Just a month before his seventh birthday on Sept. 2, 2010, Treyton Kilar was killed in Troy Township when Scott D. Dragotta of East Troy crashed into the Kilar family mini-van.

Dragotta was convicted in February of 2011 and sentenced to 20 years in prison and 10 years of subsequent supervision in the drunken driving crash. During the supervision period, Dragotta must visit Treyton’s grave annually on the anniversary of the crash.

Abbott talked about how she had contacted her 11-year-old brother to ask him what he thought.

She said his response was, “Shouldn’t you do what you said you were going to do?”

Abbott said that that summed up exactly how she felt.

In an interview after the meeting, Abbott said that she was “saddened” to hear that there was a controversy, but that “tonight’s vote sends a stronger message that we support this project.”

Each councilmember that spoke reiterated similar observations.

Binnie, representing Aldermanic District 4, expressed some concerns that were added to the Council’s final resolution:

· That the Parks and Recreation Department develop a policy for dealing with heat on the turf.

· That parents be offered the opportunity to not have their child play on artificial turf.

· Express the expectation that a fund would be created to replace the turf in 8 to 12 years.

· That construction would not begin until there are sufficient funds to pay for all of the vital parts of the project.

Paul Plinske, the Athletic Director at UW-Whitewater, spoke to the Council saying that he believed that the artificial turf on the fields at the university were a significant contributing factor to the school winning eight national championships in eight years.

Greg Meyer of Whitewater stood up as a hazardous materials expert with extensive experience dealing with all types of dangerous substances, saying, “I would be the first in line to stop any project in the city if it posed a risk to any child.”

Meyer, along with several other speakers, mentioned the expected financial benefits to the city’s small business owners.

Karen McCullough, whose concerns expressed at last week’s meeting prompting the delay and scheduling of the special meeting, expressed concerns about the environmental impact of the project, an issue shared by several other speakers.

“You can support the field and the environment,” said McCullough.

All of the speakers at the meeting, whether on the Council or from the audience, expressed their sympathies and support for the Kilar family and for Treyton’s Field of Dreams.

Mary Kilar, Treyton’s mother, was the last speaker of the night.

“Emotion is the reason the reason this field will be built,” she said.

“It is to honor every child’s dream,” she added, reminding the audience that it was Treyton’s dream to be a Major League Baseball player. She went on to say that “safety has always remained our top concern.”

Mary Kilar received applause for her concluding remarks that Treyton’s Field of Dreams was not only to commemorate Treyton’s life but to give every child who steps onto the field the feeling of being a professional baseball player, even if it is for a very short time.

The Council then voted unanimously to accept the bid for artificial turf, allowing the Parks and Recreation Department to move forward with acceptance of a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh grant, which has a deadline of July 31.

Councilmember Binnie’s recommendations and concerns were included as part of a revised resolution.

In a second piece of council business, Kevin Brunner, former City Manager, has been appointed as a citizen member of the Whitewater University Technology Park Board.

 
 

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