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Move fields away from airport say councilmen

Although the city signed off on relocating Winslow Park softball and soccer fields to airport property in September 2012, news that the project is going to cost $2 million more than projected has two council members questioning if City Park or Rocky Point would be better suited for the fields.

The issue surfaced at Monday night’s City Council meeting as Rhode Island Airport Corporation president and CEO Kelly Fredericks presented an overview of airport projects including the extension of safety areas to Runway 16-34 that would affect Buckeye Brook wetlands; progress on the construction of the deicing fluid recovery facility and the status of plans for an extension to the main runway.

But it was the relocation of the Winslow Park fields that had the attention of Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon and Ward 9 Councilman Steve Merolla. Fredericks said design for the six softball and two soccer fields, parking and concession area, which will be built on land cleared on homes in the Lake Shore Drive neighborhood, is 90 percent completed. The bad news, however, is that it is costing a lot more than anticipated, he said.

The cost of relocating the fields is $7.5 million, or about $2 million more than first budgeted. The project includes an extension of the maintenance garage service road off Airport Road and revisions to the service and Airport Road intersection. He said that the Department of Transportation opposes a signal at the intersection; however, they are examining the feasibility of a combined intersection with Commerce Way that does have a signal.

Saying he is concerned by the health and safety of children, Solomon likened moving the fields from Main Avenue to the other end of the airport to going from the frying pan into the fire. He said the Lake Shore Drive site doesn’t seem practical and that it raises air quality concerns.

As for the Airport Road intersection, he said the road already has too much traffic and it can’t handle the flow.“Rocky Point Park or City Park may be a more practical place,” he said. “Before spending anymore funds, it makes sense that we take a breath and take a look.”

Merolla suggested, getting the kids out of harm’s way and go someplace else all together.

“It’s just not a compatible land use with the airport,” he said of the fields.

Yet the council denied a zone change that would have allowed RIAC to build three corporate hangars on the land. As the hangars would have been privately owned, the city would have benefited from tax revenues. The site was then considered for the fields when it became apparent they weren’t going to be relocated to the Knight Campus of CCRI.

Keeping the fields at Winslow Park is impossible, as some of the land will be needed to accommodate the relocation of Main Avenue that is all part of lengthening of Runway 5-23. As part of a memorandum of understanding with RIAC, whereby the council dropped legal action to halt the runway extension, RIAC agreed to relocate the fields. Further, it gave the council until October 2012 to find an alternative site to Lake Shore Drive.

Fredericks couldn’t see how picking another site at this time could be accomplished without disrupting the timetable to have the runway extension operational by December 2017.

“This a complex and tight schedule,” he said. “We’re well under way.”

Asked Tuesday what he thought of Solomon’s two proposed sites, Mayor Scott Avedisian said he believes there are restrictions that would prevent them from going on the state owned portion of the former park. As for the city parcel, there isn’t sufficient space. He also ruled out City Park on the basis of space.

Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur wasn’t prepared to buy into the Rocky Point proposal on Tuesday. Before signing on, he said he wanted more information and to hear from his constituents.

On the loss of 2.6 acres of biological wetlands for the safety area on the shorter runway, Fredericks outlined five areas where RIAC would reestablish and create wetlands to offset wetlands lost. He said the deicing management system is scheduled to go online in October 2014 and be fully operational by March 2015 under the terms of its permit with the Department of Environmental Management. DEM is also in the process of reviewing the wetlands mitigation plan that will need to come back to the council for approval.

Fredericks had a piece of bad news. In the agreement with the city, RIAC was to have replaced a section of water main running under Airport Road. That would have been necessary had the Airport and Post Road intersection been relocated to the north as first proposed. Now that is not happening and the Federal Aviation Administration won’t finance replacement of the water main.

13 comments on this item

Do not put a light on airport rd. The road has six red lights now. SIX.

the games are on the weekend during the mornings when traffic is light ! They used to fight to not re-locate them from Winslow park at that time their health and air quality wasn't an issue. This is total b.s. All ahead full. Under budget in some projects, over on this one. As long as it all balances out.

Why would any parent want his/her kids to be playing ball in a known bad air pocket? Just go to Lakeshore and check it out for yourself.

Didn't you want them to stay right under the flight path at Winslow? Or am I mistaken

You know what is more troublesome? That un-capped land fill at the end of Warwick Industrial. I would never swim in Warwick Pond ! I googled that land fill and read up on it and I can't believe it hasn't been addressed.

Solomon and Merolla need to get a life. Oh the children will just be fine at the new location. The league is too concerned with their major tournaments. Once they start playing everyone will be happy in "Happy" land.

Here's an idea... Level one of the three high schools and use that land for Winslow Park.

wow I am absolutely astonished at the comments that people post here. education of issues is key. the level of ignorance shown is beyond the pale...

Why Thank you alaskabound! and happy holidays to you and your family...

Merry Christmas !! I wonder what the time table is for alaskabound to move to alaska? TF Green is on schedule and within costs.

I love what the know it all in ward 5 said . I have to see what the people want in my ward. just like the bonds for the sewers, happy happy

Micheal2012 any backup on that landfill danger? I googled it and found nothing so far.

rieconews is what you have to look up. I can't paste the link. But, it's there. Buried on the search engine. Check it out regarding that land fill. A good read. They don't know what is buried there. Have ideas though! A lot of medical waste, hazardous waste, batteries, real nasty stuff. Uncapped and leaching

ecori actually not rieco. or google warwick ri landfill and click on the one that says what is percolating under...

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