School athletic field project to benefit Hartford’s Youth Commission

For at least the past four decades, Hartford’s youth have been faced with the continuous problem of insufficient availability of Youth Commission recreational field space. This has been a problem for so long that many have rendered it to be a permanent problem without any practical solution. In fact, there are many Hartford grandparents of Youth Commission aged children that faced the very same problem when they were young children.

This is all about to change. The Town of Hartford plans to collaborate with the Hartford Central School District to solve this problem.

The late Barbara Allen was instrumental in Youth Commission fund raising many years ago with the goal set to raise enough money to purchase a field somewhere in town that could be converted into Youth Commission fields. This has never happened. Funds still remain to this day within the Town’s coffers, waiting for a field to appear that can be purchased and developed.

In 2006 the School District purchased 5.46 acres of field from the adjacent Eastman Dairy Farm in order to expand the school’s athletic grounds. This field is to the west of the existing Varsity/JV Soccer field, Baseball Diamond, and Softball Diamond. This field currently has a large flat topped hill constructed upon it that is left over from the School’s recent building expansions. Tight budgets have prevented the school’s creation of athletic fields where the hill now stands. As the School District tries to prevent layoffs it is impractical to expect that they would spend upwards of the estimated cost of $60,000 to create additional athletic fields.

The Town has recently entered into a legal agreement with the School whereby the Town will use volunteer workers and donated services to flatten out the hill and attempt to create fields which will benefit the Youth Commission programs. The Town has allocated $10,000 ($5,000 from the Town’ General Fund plus $5,000 from the Youth Commission fund) in order to accomplish this. We have named Ron Smith and Russell Wade as project leaders. The goal is to get at least $60,000 worth of work done for just $10,000 using volunteers and donated services.

The legal agreement with the school will allow the Youth Commission to use these newly constructed athletic fields in addition to all of the other exterior athletic fields including the Varsity and JV fields for the next 20 years. The newly created fields will be maintained by the School.

In the opinion of the Hartford Town Board and Hartford Youth Commission, the best possible scenario in regard to Youth Commission programs is to have one centrally located campus with one parking lot and all you have to do is walk from one athletic field or event to another. This way if you have more than one child participating on different fields, you do not have to drive from one end of town to the other, all can be located at one spot which ideally is the school.

There will be criticism that the Town should not spend any funds to do what the School should do on its own. However, this is an imperfect world and most of the same citizens that pay School taxes also pay Town taxes. We are all in the same boat together paying taxes and if the Town can accomplish this goal by using a lot of sweat equity for a frugal $10,000 what the School would have to tax and spend $60,000 to do, then in my opinion we are all better off. If we wait for the School to be able to afford to do this, it most likely will not happen for a very long time, if ever. The Town has already waited a very long time to increase Youth Commission field availability with no success.

The future of our community is our Youth and with this collaboration we all win.

Dana Haff
Hartford Town Supervisor