Six years after its construction, the Charlie McVay Memorial Softball Complex will get the safety netting for the girls’ softball fields that many contend had been planned as part of the original project and that a couple of city councilors have been requesting for years.
“I am quite thankful that it got approved,” said Brian Casaus, president of the Roswell Girls Softball Association. “Safety is important. … With all the practicing and playing that happens out here, we need that netting.”
He said the group sponsors two tournaments a year and uses the fields about seven months during spring and summer seasons. He said a few people have been hit by foul balls over the years, and he thanked City Councilor Savino Sanchez, one of the city councilors who has been bringing up the netting question at meetings for some time, for his continued efforts on the issue.
City Councilor Juan Oropesa was also a persistent questioner about when funding would be allocated.
The city of Roswell was authorized by the City Council General Services Committee at its Wednesday meeting to spend $202,275.12 to Holloway Construction Co. to install poles, cable, netting and hardware so that the netting can be placed around the four softball fields to ensure that foul balls will not hit people in the stands or outside the fields.
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The estimated project cost is significantly below the $300,000 to $350,000 city staff thought it might require, and Project Manager Kevin Dillon said that the 1-3/4-inch netting was chosen to allow snow to fall through rather than accumulate on top, at the risk of bringing down the nets and poles.
Because the money already has been budgeted for the project and does not come from the general fund, the authorization to expend the funds does not require a vote of the entire City Council, according to city staff at the meeting.
The question about why the netting was never installed — when several councilors familiar with the project during its construction said it had been part of the original project plans — or why money for it was never budgeted has been brought up in several city meetings where planning and funding for capital projects have been discussed.
Given many recent changes in city personnel during the past years, city staff previously have said no one was certain why the netting had not been installed during construction or why funds had not been budgeted in the years following.
At another point, city councilors were upset that money had been approved for engineering studies in December and that a purchase order request had been made, but then somehow the purchase order was never followed up on by May. The Finance Department admitted it “dropped the ball” on that.
Dillon said his department did research about why the netting was not installed in 2013, before he began working with the city, and he thinks the most likely explanation is that, while netting was talked about originally, people decided instead to use that money to create a second story to the central building in the complex to use as a scoring section.
Several councilors said they were pleased to hear that explanation, and Sanchez and Oropesa also said that they were happy to see the project move forward.
“We’ve been at it for a couple of years now, two or three years, since I came aboard,” said Sanchez.
But they aren’t done. Oropesa wants to know about a pee-wee field that he says was also meant to be part of the complex but was never built, and Sanchez said he plans to work to get funding for two more girls’ softball fields.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.