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Watertown Town Council Approves Park Project Despite Vocal Opposition from Neighbors

The park behind the new Police Station will have a multi-use hard court, a spray park and play structures for children.

Town Councilors approved plans to upgrade the park behind the new Watertown Police Station Tuesday night even as a group of neighbors pleaded to take out the hard court area included in the project.

Discussions about the 552 Main Street Park, which used to be known as the Browne School Playground, started in October 2010, and plans have changed since then, said Recreation Director Peter Centola.

Some features disappeared, such as a street hockey rink, while others were added, including the water spray area. The hard court area, which can be used for basketball and a number of other things, was added to the plan and made it to the final plan.

Other additions include a gazebo, a picnic area, new landscaping and replacement of the fence on Acton Street, Centola said.

Neighbor Opposition

Some neighbors complained that the hard court area breaks up the green space in the park, and the eight-foot chain link fence ruins a good sledding hill.

The council received a letter from 28 neighbors asking them not to pass a proposal with the hard court, including Virginia Rice.

“We are not opposed to developing the park. We want it to be redeveloped,” Rice said. “The big stumbling block is the hard court surface. It breaks up a nice sledding hill and changes the whole nature of the park.”

A smaller sledding area may be preserved, Centola said. Also, the area near the hard court will have to be graded to make it level, Centola said, which could be used as a sledding space.

Centola said at a previous meeting that the plan was to replace items lost from the park when the police station was built, including a basketball court and a children’s play structure.

Neighbor Candy Aulenbach said that the basketball court was never part of the grassy area that now makes up the park.

“Basketball was part of the school section (of the property). It was never (in the park) in the first place,” Aulenbach said. “You all took it and put a police station on it. That’s why (the hard court area) looks so big there.”

Spray Park

Town Council President Mark Sideris wanted to know what happens to the water in the spray park. He suggested finding a system to reuse it.

“We (the town) don’t charge ourselves for water, but residents will have to pay for it,” Sideris said. “If we spend money to build it we need to considers the cost on the other side (after it is built).”

Centola said the options are letting the water go into the storm drain, putting it down the sewer and recycling it. The first option would likely violate storm water runoff bylaws and the second would cost the town in sewer fees. He said he is looking for a system that reuses the water.

Weighing the Decision

District D Councilor Ken Woodland, whose district includes the park, said he heard from both the neighbors who showed up to oppose the plan along with others who welcome the new additions. In the end he supported the plan proposed by the Recreation Department.

“I do believe it is more aesthetically pleasing without the hard court, but for me the bottom line is how many people use it,” Woodland said. “My feeling is more people would use it with the multi-use hard court surface.”

The council voted 9-0 to approve the plan, which will cost an estimated $454,500. 

Steven Cavaretta February 13, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Pete never met a park he didn't want to pave.
E.M.D. February 13, 2013 at 05:17 PM
and no dog run to be seen.
Joe February 13, 2013 at 07:14 PM
There's dogs in every park or should i say every open space of land throughout town(s), even where it says no dogs allowed. You can't even walk around Waverley Oaks/Beaver Brook without getting mauled by dogs or the noise from the constant barking.
E.M.D. February 13, 2013 at 07:45 PM
Joe, There is no public space in Watertown where dogs are allowed. If you look in neighboring towns, there are plenty of spaces that dog owners can legally bring their dogs. There doesn't exist such spaces in Watertown. I go elsewhere with mine but I take no issue with people bringing their dogs into the parks anyway. This isn't such an odd thing for a town of this size to provide to its residents.
Steven Cavaretta February 13, 2013 at 08:36 PM
I agree EMD but as long as Pete runs the parks the dogs are S.O.O.L. ;-) I was at Victory Field right after Pete paved it. Some old lady had a tiny pooch on a string and was walking toward the field. I thought that Pete was going to take her down with a flying tackle to keep the dog off the turf.
Tired February 13, 2013 at 09:04 PM
I don't like my child running and slipping on dog urine never mind poop residue
Steven Cavaretta February 13, 2013 at 09:28 PM
Perhaps you should teach the child to watch where they step. It will come in handy throughout their life. Caution them about cats and geese as well.
E.M.D. February 13, 2013 at 09:41 PM
Tired, That is why dog owners have been asking for a separate area to exercise their animals. I personally clean up my dog's droppings but wouldn't everyone be happy if there was a separate area for them to run free without negatively impacting others. You know just like every single one of the surrounding communities has? Literally every single one...
Mark February 13, 2013 at 09:53 PM
Does anyone know where the annual fees for dog licenses go in Watertown? I don't get any services from the city as a dog owner. I can't take him to any of the parks. I have to take my dog to another town for exercise. Why am I paying a fee every year to have a dog in this town?
E.M.D. February 13, 2013 at 09:56 PM
The crazy thing is that my wife and I are looking to buy in this place to not make our kids move in the middle of high school. We hate it here and can't wait to get out.
Steven Cavaretta February 13, 2013 at 10:19 PM
That's ironic because Pete said paving the playgrounds would attract parents with children. Maybe somebody should tell Pete.
Karla Vallance February 14, 2013 at 12:34 AM
Steven, I need you to respond to the email I sent you about commenting under this name. If I don't hear back from you, we will need to block your posts. Thank you for responding to me.
Peekup Andropov February 14, 2013 at 12:44 PM
I think Pete is doing a good job. Whatever improvements they make to anything in town, there will be a group that do not agree. Overall the parks in town are pretty nice.
Steven Cavaretta February 14, 2013 at 02:09 PM
$454,500 is a lot to pay for pretty nice.
Steven Cavaretta February 14, 2013 at 02:15 PM
Karla I never saw the email send it again.
Karla Vallance February 14, 2013 at 02:15 PM
Steven, as requested yesterday, I need you to contact me. Today, please. You can email me at: karla.vallance@patch.com. Thank you.
Peekup Andropov February 14, 2013 at 03:14 PM
It sure is. It should probably be a little more, But things are tight. Enjoy the parks and playgrounds any chance you get
Mara February 14, 2013 at 04:29 PM
Why don't they plan for the water before presenting the plan? It definitely should not become storm water. We are trying to minimize that in every way. Nor in the sewer for which we pay also. You couldn't create a plan that recycles the water BEFORE presenting it and throwing up your hands to say, "well, we don't know"? What kind of professionals are you?
E.M.D. February 14, 2013 at 04:42 PM
I think you answered your own question.
K Coyne February 14, 2013 at 05:07 PM
@Mara, Yes, I agree...as with Victory Field ..as a town we should had done the Fundraising prior to building now the rest of the field sport teams(regardless if they will or will not be using VF) are paying instead! Poor planning either way. All these factors should be done ahead of time with good estimate cost laid out for each case. Business 101 really.
Gary M February 14, 2013 at 10:30 PM
WaterInfo, Wrong. User Fees were always part of the initial proposal made to the Town Manager and Town Council. Please visit the Town Website and review the Victory Field Fundraising Plan dated 1/24/11. $25 Youth Sports User Fees over 10 years are estimated to generate $411k.
K Coyne February 15, 2013 at 02:58 AM
Gary M, The newly proposed fees are 5$ per kid plus fee for the fields which are not guaranteed to be used to help fix the fields the kids are actually using(bone of contention these days). Yes, there were proposed fees but they were not worked out prior(at least no feedback from all the groups that I know of..which is why the Open Forums recently ..to work them out). That is another issue all together. The main point is to not put the cart before the horse and get our $$ in order before going ahead with projects(get real costs, contingency plans, and fund raise prior to project with large costs if that is part of the plan, get fees/input prior (so that it is then a real part of the plan)). To date November 7, 2012: $297,454.00 has been raised and it was open Nov 2011.
Gary M February 15, 2013 at 06:09 AM
WaterInfo, Your argument doesn't make sense. Simply put. The cost estimate for Victory Field was $3m. The TC approved a loan to cover that cost. The project was brought in on time and under budget ($2.7m). What 'real costs' were missed here. We got a loan to cover to the cost of the project. All fund raising and user fees were to defray costs on the general taxpayer. I can cite other projects in town (the library for one) that were far more mismanaged.
K Coyne February 15, 2013 at 02:03 PM
Gary M I think we are then in agreement with respect to my overall point. We need to manage projects better before they start(and during)(not just with respect to the Park&Rec Dept, this was sited due to the context of this article). I can't say much about the Library(or Police Station)as I was offline during that period. Of course there will be overruns and some delays(my understanding of VF was that it was suppose to be done for the Fall Football season(end of summer)) it was not(but again understandable with construction..). My specific point about the VF project was that fees were not worked out prior, fundraising was not done prior(at least the brunt of it).. If we came in at .3M less that is great but we still need to raise the 1.5M which was specified as 'fundraising'(1.5 defray from costs to taxpayer was my understanding). Fundraising is hard which is why I would think it prudent to do most of it prior if the projects are counting on this revenue. In 10 years we will need to redo the Artificial Turf(life expectancy is 8-10 years with good management..which we do have). I would like to see the town fundraising for the 1.5M plus the cost of redoing.

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