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Fairfax park plan faces challenges

Guard's assistance helps, but funds still on short side

By Messenger Staff - Tuesday - June 11, 2002

FAIRFAX - The Vermont National Guard made a friendly and much appreciated invasion of Fairfax on Saturday, beginning work on the long anticipated Fairfax Community Recreation Park - Phase I.

However, the ambitious project, now a decade in the making, still faces challenges, including a shortfall in funding and proposals to scale back from the original plan, said its manager.

According to Carol Lizotte, Phase I-Access Road is funded and is scheduled to start this summer, with the Guard to return on Saturdays and Sundays -- June 29 and 30, July 27 and 28, and September 14 and 15.

"By the end of this summer, we will have a small gravel parking lot, emergency access road, small practice field and one Little League size ball field," said Lizotte.

The Paved Recreation Path phase is funded but cannot be installed until after Phase II-Athletic Fields construction is completed, said Lizotte.

Phase II-Athletic Fields construction, however, has come up $44,300 short, and Phase III-Restrooms & Basketball Court is without funds, she added.

Access road construction to the project, located across the street from the Bellows Free Academy school parking lot, was begun by Vermont Army National Guard on Saturday.

The Guard, which uses these types of community projects as surveying and heavy equipment training exercises, has agreed to finish the access road and to return next year for construction of the athletic fields.

Fairfax has a Vermont Land & Water Conservation Fund Program (LWCF) grant for $70,000 for this year's work.

This summer's project is intact and on schedule, said Lizotte. It began when the Guard had its surveyors on site Saturday, May 18 along with Fairfax's Don Lawrence, providing Lamoureau & Dickinson Consulting Engineering's survey reference points.

"The only money we are short on for this Phase I construction is the Little League field's backstop and benches ($4,100 per Lamoureau & Dickinson's cost estimate)," said Lizotte. "We need to come up with that $4,100 to be able to complete the grant reimbursement by the fall 2002."

The Guard's commitment, valued at about $140,000 for each year, has been Fairfax's "sponsor match" for the LWCF grant funds which require the sponsor to provide half of the costs financially or as in-kind services, said Lizotte.

"We could not do this project without the Guard's commitment," she said.

While the Guard is prepared to return to the project next summer, Fairfax has not yet secured its funding to provide for the material and fuel costs.

Last week, the Fairfax Park Committee was informed that LWCF is awarding the $98,000 for Phase II of the project. "This leaves us $32,000 short for next year's project phase," said Lizotte. "In addition, we had anticipated the donation of $12,300 for next year's backstops and benches, which is now in question. This makes next year's Phase II- Athletic Field's budget $44,300 short."

The project manager said there is the potential of postponing the Guard's construction assistance on Phase II until 2004, because of the shortfall in funding.

Also under discussion with the LWCF grant administrator is whether Fairfax could reduce the scope of athletic fields project from three ball fields, with one overlapping soccer field, to allow for reduced material costs which might fall in line with the $98,000 grant award.

Lizotte said organizers also are verifying whether the paved recreation path phase, which has been awarded by the Vermont Agency of Transportation's Enhancement Grant can be postponed to late in 2004, rather than the tentatively scheduled fall 2003.

The about one mile long recreation path is funded at this point but cannot be constructed until the athletic field's earthwork is completed, said Lizotte. "The hope is that if we can postpone all our interdependent funded project phases, we would have another year to reapply to the LWCF 2003 grant and potentially obtain this missing $32,000," she added.

The town's $20,000 voted in March 2001 for a sponsor match has been used for the Park Phase I, II and the paved recreation path.

The last phase was to be a gravel recreation path, which now has been omitted due to high construction costs that arose after the area was designated as "archeological sensitive." That designation banned any excavation or digging.

"With our inability to obtain funding and in acknowledging all these restrictions, we decided to omit the gravel recreation path phase from the project ... We are focusing on getting the paved recreation path installed, said Lizotte.

Anyone wanting to offer support, donations or to volunteer, please contact the Fairfax Town Office or Project Manager Carol Lizotte (