Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 22, 2017

Committee waiting for answers before accepting donation

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | May 15, 2017

Members of the Fairfield City Council property committee have said they need a few questions answered before they’ll accept a company’s offer to donate land to the city.

Fairfield Castings has offered to donate 15 acres of land north of the Dexter Apache soccer fields. The property committee of Katy Anderson, Michael Halley and chairman Daryn Hamilton has taken up the issue. The three are divided on whether it makes sense for the city to accept the offer.

At the May 8 council meeting, Anderson said the offer was too good to pass up. She said money required to seed and maintain the ground could come from the local option sales tax, so the city wouldn’t have to raise property taxes.

Halley said the committee needs to learn more about the land and what the city can use it for. For instance, committee members would like to know what Fairfield Castings has been dumping on the site, and whether it would need to be cleaned up.

Another question the committee has pertains to the land’s classification as “BUD” by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Committee members have searched in vain for what BUD means or what rules apply to land with that designation. Halley said he would like a representative of the DNR to attend a committee meeting to explain what the classification entails.

Halley said he did not like the idea of raising property taxes in order to maintain the new land.

Hamilton had previously expressed skepticism of accepting the land because of the expense involved in seeding and mowing it. He estimated it would cost the city $45,000 to seed the ground, and then take a city employee four to five hours to mow the grass.

Fairfield Park and Rec director Calvin Todd said in an interview that he needed more information before making a recommendation to council about accepting the land. The committee asked Todd to research how other cities maintain large recreation complexes, to see if they are done at the city’s expense or are managed by an outside group.

He investigated complexes in Fort Madison, Centerville and Oskaloosa, and found that, in each case, a nonprofit organization was maintaining the grounds instead of the city government. That is consistent with how some rec complexes are managed in Fairfield, too.

For instance, the Little League ball diamonds are maintained by Fairfield Little League instead of park and rec. The Dexter Apache soccer fields are maintained by a nonprofit for most of the year, except for the fall when football and soccer leagues through the park and rec department use the land. Todd said the only ball diamonds the city maintains are those at O.B. Nelson Park.

Todd said that, if the city accepts the land donation, he hopes it will be converted into recreation grounds.

“I would say that it should be used for soccer, softball or baseball,” he said. “Those are our most popular sports, so demand for those fields will be higher.”

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