Parks department asks to turf stadium infields

Joplin (MO) park officials would like to find the money to install synthetic turf in the infields of both Joe Becker and Wendell Redden stadiums.

Leslie Haase, the city’s finance director, told the Joplin City Council at a Monday night work session that turfing one or both of the fields “would help three purposes. It would decrease maintenance costs, reallocate staff time and increase the possible usage of the fields.”

This year’s parks staff is leaner than in past years. Six positions were cut or reduced in the department this fiscal year as the result of workforce reductions to balance the budget. The department lost three full-time jobs and three seasonal laborers who would normally help with spring and summer chores such as mowing and groundskeeping.

Additionally, there have been drainage problems at Joe Becker when heavy rains occur in summer. Last year, that caused the former Joplin Blasters professional team to cancel or delay games and play a couple of games at Missouri Southern State University.

Haase said city staff looked at various ways for the parks department to handle the workload, which now includes the addition of the new Mercy Park, “and this project would be at the top of their list” to help to do that.

Chuckie Bertocino said the department took bids for a variety of options for the two fields. That includes turfing each stadium’s infield, outfields and both sections of the field, along with alternative costs for maintenance.

They received bids from six turf companies. The lowest bid to turf the Becker infield only is $227,500. The lowest bid for the Redden infield is $252,649. Outfield turf for both the infield and outfield at Becker would cost $625,000.

Haase said the city is about halfway through the 10-year cycle of the quarter-cent parks and stormwater tax. Because some parks projects were donated to the city after the 2011 tornado and the city was able to use some of its own resources to complete some of the projects that were committed to the tax, she calculates there could be an excess of nearly $338,000 when the course of the projects is finished. The tax is in effect until 2022.

While the finance director did not recommend spending all of that excess at this point, she said part of it could be used to turf Becker field. But she would have to study the city’s fund balances and sources of funding to see if she could find a funding source to do the infields at both stadiums if that is the council’s preference.

She said she did not think she could find more than about $461,000 to turf both infields.

Council member Phil Stinnett asked if staff members had checked with Joplin High School, Missouri Southern State University and Webb City High School for references on the sellers those schools used and the turf products they installed. Haase said they had not.

The council said it would hear further information when funding sources are identified and those references are checked.

In other business, the council was told that more than 140 residents have participated in meetings on the various topics being explored by Vision Joplin 2022.

Clifford Wert, chairman of the effort, said that six committees and four subcommittees were formed to come up with recommendations for projects and initiatives that could be started within the next five years to spur growth and improve the quality of life in Joplin.

After giving the council a summary of the committee work that is being done on such topics as governance, healthy living, job growth and quality of life, he asked the council for input.

Mayor Mike Seibert opened the council’s discussion by thanking Wert and the other volunteers who have worked to develop a vision for Joplin’s future.

“This is exciting because this really can put this community in a new place in a very few years,” he said, with the input of the variety of residents and the ideas they are willing to share.

While individual council members were complimentary of the effort, they did comment on their concerns regarding what has already been discussed.

Council member Ryan Stanley said he did not want any recommendation for a multiuse center or mixed-use complex to have a fitness component that would compete with the programs and services offered by the Joplin Family Y and private businesses.

Councilman Gary Shaw said he would be concerned about any recommendation to reallocate funding for any existing project that was committed to voters as part of the parks and stormwater or capital improvements sales taxes.

He asked if the committee members have considered how to deal with challenges regarding deteriorating neighborhoods and community pride.

Wert said he is looking forward to seeing the city’s ability to address issues through its future priority based budgeting effort. He said that Vision Joplin is looking at more of a long-term plan.- By DEBBY WOODIN