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Island Crest Park Artificial Turf Will Be Ready for Baseball Season, Says City

Mercer Island City Council approved installation of an artificial turf infield at Island Crest Park designed to prevent rain-outs and paid for by a private-public partnership between baseball boosters and City Hall.

City officials pledged at a Monday City Council meeting that a new artificial turf infield at rain out-prone Island Crest Park will be ready by opening day of the 2013 high school baseball season.

Mercer Island City Council unanimously approved a deal to pay Lake Stevens-based Premier Field Development $249,725.55 for placing artificial turf in Island Crest Park's north infield, in the coach's and batter's boxes and Islanders logoed artificial turf in front of the dugouts and around home plate. The total approved budget for the project is $353,572.

A considerable part of the funding for the project came from the Mercer Island Baseball Booster Club and a group of parents, calling themselves "Friends of Island Crest Park". Booster club chairs Jerry Goldberg and Pete Higgins presented a check for $150,000 to Mayor Bruce Bassett during the meeting to help pay for the work.

"It's just a big step forward, not only to the high school, but all users of the field," Higgins said.

Mercer Island High School's baseball team uses Island Crest Park as their home field.

Higgins also said that the infield's soggy conditions has led to several injuries and, over the past two years, nearly half of Islanders Baseball home games were cancelled due to rainouts — putting the team at a competitive disadvantage.

"We've had basically two years where we didn't field ground balls in the infield during practice," he said.

Parks Superintendent Jason Kintner said the improvements would eliminate the cancellation of games due to standing water on the field in all but the heaviest downpours. Bidding for the project came in higher than expected, but the city decided to move ahead with the contract in order to "play ball" by the start of the next season.

"We need to have this project complete by February, 2013," he said. "We feel that we can definitely get this project done."

The turf has an expected lifespan of eight years, and a new fee will be added to all users of the field to pay for a sinking fund to eventually replace the field.

Parks and Recreation Director Bruce Fletcher said the effort to replace the infield turf has been years in the making and was part of a failed 2008 local parks bond. After that bond failed, the city parternered with private groups using the parks to pay for improvements to the South Mercer Fields. The idea to help fund the turf replacement grew from that agreement, said Fletcher.

City Council also unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with the Mercer Island School District for use of the field and accepting a contribution from the MISD for the improvements in the amount of $25,000.

An additional project to replace lighting at the park was placed on hold after officials determined low-energy LED flood lights were not yet available on the market and the city was unable to secure additional funding from King County.

Carv Zwingle October 02, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Priorities of Government!!!!! The Council can fund a "nice to have" item like the artificial turf, but must seek additional funds through a bond issue for a Rescue Truck which is being proposed as a "Got to have" item. Clearly the Firehouse/Rescue Truck Bond is another clumsy attempt to create a slush fund.
Kendall Watson October 02, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Good point, Carv. But the city got just under half of this project funded by a private group, just like they did with South Mercer Playfields when they used/leveraged 2008 Parks Levy money to put artificial turf there. I am terrible at analogies, but I'll give it a try anyways: Is it sort of like needing a new car, but someone comes along and offers you 50 percent off a brand-new, top-of-the-line baseball bat and glove your son wants for little league? Do you buy your son the bat & glove and borrow the new car money from your mother and father-in law? ;-)
Katherine October 02, 2012 at 07:37 PM
I am also torn about this one. I think one of the worst examples of excess by this city is the sports fields. I am ashamed when I see all those fancy sports fields on the island when we suffer for money for schools and other more essential needs of the city. I always wonder how it must seem to the teachers whose jobs are threatened every year to see money being spent on sports fields rather than their salaries. Luckily we all donate enough to secure the teachers' salaries, but now I am wondering if I am doing the right thing by donating at all. Am I subsidizing sports fields by helping the teachers and schools?
Accountable October 03, 2012 at 12:51 AM
If MI has $250k+ for some artificial turf it's quite evident to me that we don't need a levy for a fire truck. Sounds like misplaced priorities once again. Perhaps, we need voter ratification for any expenditure in excess of $1000.
Mercer Islander! October 03, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Pretty sure city funds that are used for fields, parks, roads, sewers etc. cannot be used for schools, teacher salaries...by law. And aren't teacher salaries set by the state so the school board or even the voters can't pay them more even if we voted to do so?
Kendall Watson October 03, 2012 at 08:34 PM
That's right, Mercer Islander!, these are two different taxing authorities. Perhaps Katherine was talking about her taxes generally. Or perhaps she was talking about the MISD's contribution of $25,000 through an interlocal agreement to upgrade the field. One reason the MISD does pay above the state minimum for teachers (per the schedule you mention) is by requiring additional training days before school starts. They work more days overall because of that. For instance, the starting salary for a MISD teacher with minimum education requirements is just over $40K in salary, not including additional benefits. The state minimum starting salary is, I believe, around $33.5K.

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