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By Laura Paine / Staff Writer Wicked Local Watertown Posted Mar 23, 2011 @ 01:44 PM WATERTOWN — After four years of research, planning and hard work, Watertown residents will finally see a newly renovated Victory Field this fall. During Tuesday night’s meeting, the Town Council unanimously approved plans to renovate Watertown’s athletic field before dozens of residents and school athletes. Town Councilor Susan Falkoff was absent. “Victory Field will once again be one of the grandest recreational facilities in the area,” Recreation Director Peter Centola said. The proposal to renovate the field includes adding new lighting and seating as well as 160,000 square feet of artificial turf. New Hampshire-based David White and Son came in with the lowest bid at $2,772,000, and with money included for contingencies, the final price tag will be $3 million. The project has already received $200,000 in donations from two private residents. Several residents spoke in favor of the field, including second-generation Riverside Street resident Bob Johnson, who told the council that his father had played football at Victory Field 60 years ago and it has only been changed once since then. “The time is now to change it again,” Johnson said. “I’m well aware of the tough economic times we are facing, but now is the time to fund this project once and for all [for] our kids, their kids and your kids.” “The economy us one of the major reasons we should be doing this field,” resident Jay Hughes said. “Interest rates are at historic lows. There is a difference between paying salaries and building a field. You can’t borrow money to pay salaries and fund programs. All we are asking for is a functional field. When is the economy ever good? I don’t think it’s ever good enough.” The current deficit in the school department’s budget was a point of contention for residents who were not in favor of the field. Resident John Bertrand said that everyone wants what is best for the children, but this is not the appropriate time to spend $3 million on turf. “We’re facing teacher layoffs,” Bertrand said. “We are facing a shortfall because of the snowstorms this winter and are considering closing the Orchard Street fire station and the department has been reduced to a skeletal force. What is our priority? Jobs should come before artificial turf. This is a luxury. We have to consider all of the city of Watertown.” Town Councilor John Lawn said the council needs to think outside the box and it is important to improve the facilities for things residents may not have considered, like making graduations from Watertown High School a little bit easier. But councilors Angie Kounelis and Anthony Palomba were both concerned about the financial ramifications of the renovations. Palomba said that he thinks it is clear that there is a relationship between the capital budget and the operating budget of the town because it all comes out of taxpayer pockets. Town Councilor Vincent Piccirilli disagreed, saying that salaries and programs cannot be funded through bonding. “Tough financial times work in our favor for this project,” he said. “It’s not a question of not doing Victory Field and giving money to the school department. We are not shortchanging our schools by doing this. We are investing in our town.” Recreation Director Peter Centola and eight residents to be chosen later will form a subcommittee to raise the necessary $1.5 million dollars in 1 to 2 years for the first phase of the renovation. Major contributors will be recognized with a plaque at the field, including the “Donor Wall of Fame” and engraved blocks. Other options include hosting an annual gala with a raffle, accepting donations of any amount, and pursuing the Harvard-O’Neil Grant – which is designated for community wide projects. Construction could begin as early as late spring with a completion date expected in October. Copyright 2011 Watertown TAB. Some rights reserved