On a night when the Town Council did some major business, the audience of citizens was again dominated by the views of people about the proposed skate park in Phase II of Veterans Park.
This is a brief punch list of the business done at Tuesday night's Council meeting.
- “An ordinance appropriating $500,000 for Town of Berlin emergency preparedness and authorizing the issue of $500,000 bonds of the town to meet said appropriation and pending the issuance thereof the making of temporary borrowings for such purpose.”
- “An ordinance appropriating $300,000 for sidewalk and bridge improvements and authorizing the issue of $300,000 bonds of the town to meet said appropriation and pending the issuance thereof the making of temporary borrowings for such purpose.”
- Authorize the Town Council to approve a three-year lease-purchase agreement with Municipal Capital Markets Group, Inc. to lease two large dump trucks at an annual cost of $112,049.43 per year plus $3,304 closing costs in the first year only.
- Award Bid No. 2012-23 to Midconn Construction, LLC. of Newington, CT for the Exterior Wood Restoration for Berlin Town Hall in the amount of $42,000.00 and authorize the Town Manager to enter into change orders, if necessary, to bring the total construction contract to an amount not to exceed $45,360.00. Move to transfer $36,905.00 from Natural Gas Account to Contracted Services and Projects to cover the shortfall for Town Hall Exterior Wood Restoration. – Building Maintenance
- Refer the Statement of Need for Entire Roof Replacement Project at Emma Hart Willard Elementary School to the Public Works Department for development of preliminary plans and cost estimates. Also resolve, that the Public Works Department is hereby established as the building committee with regard to the Roof Replacement Project at the Emma Hart Willard Elementary School and further resolve, that the Town Council hereby authorizes the preparation of schematic drawings and specifications for the Roof Replacement Project at the Emma Hart Willard Elementary School. – Public Works
- Accept the Resignation of Deputy Mayor Stephen Morelli effective July 25, 2012.
Adam Vale Da Serra, a Berlin resident and Manager at Cutting Edge, spoke first about his hopes for the skate park.
"There have been a lot of letters and articles about this," Vale Da Serra said. "To me, this is the perfect place for the skate park. It provides accessibility to people and sidewalk connections. It has been my experience that skate parks bring a positive attitude ad to have the skate park there it would bring people with disposable income. Bills, Arby's, CITGO and other stores in the area would benefit from having skaters in their area.
"I would love to work with the designers to pay honor to the veterans through the design of the skate park. People aged 4 and up can use this area. When I was growing up you would see kids playing wiffle ball and team sports. Now if you drive around you'll see kids in cul-de-sacs with ramps and rails so they can skateboard. It will be self-sustainable, it will be popular and it is long overdue."
Peter Galgano, a member of the Veteran's Commission and East Berlin resident spoke next.
"There has been some confusion that the veterans are against the skate park," he said. "We are not, we are just opposed to it in this location. We have a plan for Phase II of the Park with monuments to every conflict so that people walking in the park can have a history lesson as they walk. We also have plans for picnic grounds, a softball field and a canopied area for poor weather. We are also worried about graffiti and vandalism and I won't go back too far to show you some examples of that."
Galgano then held up several pages of articles about towns in the state that have had their skate parks affected by vandalism and graffiti.
Parks and Recreation Director, himself a veteran, said putting the skate park in this location is not meant to disrespect the veterans.
"They have plans for picnic pavilions but there are two others in town and I can tell you they don't get very much use," he said. "A skate park would have heavy use and bring people to the park to see the great monument we already have to the veterans. I agree, it is relatively close to the monuments but there will be buffers in wetlands and landscaping. If you look at the New Britain Memorial it was built in 1927 and nobody goes near it. This will bring more traffic to the monuments and our downtown."
Paul Eshoo, a member of the Veteran's Commission talked about how the original park came to be.
"We fought hard to have a Veteran's Park, " Eshoo said. "When the park started moving forward the Veteran's Commission wasn’t involved in the design or the talks but we demanded that we were involved. The result is a beautiful monument that can be a source of pride throughout the state. This skate park came out of the blue. Nobody talked to us. When I found out, I went around and got all these signatures (holding up several pages filled with signatures) of people who don't want the skate park there. I urge the Council to think before they do this. It doesn't belong there."
The people in the crowd erupted in applause after Eshoo's comments.
Last to speak was former Councilor Bob Dacey.
"I came here to speak about two great ordinances and to say goodbye to Steve Morelli but I have to speak about the skate park," said Dacey, whose brother-in-law died in combat. "I am a Korean War veteran, a combat veteran who saw many lose their lives in Korea. I have buried many soldiers. But, you have to understand, this is not hallowed ground. I know what hallowed ground is. This is a park of remembrance and what good is that park if nobody comes to see it.
"I called (EDC Director) Jim Mahoney this morning and he affirmed that $150,000 was put in the STEAP grant for a recreational area to be determined. I think it's a good place especially for security reasons because police cars are going in and out of the town garage right across the street all the time. It may not fit to the scale and the size should be part of the considerations. I will say this and it won't be very popular with the vets. You can't undo us. It's not that we don't respect veterans. I do and I proved it. This park can't just be for your use."
With no Town Council meetings scheduled in August, the skate park discussion will be continued for another month, at least.