AUGUSTA — City councilors on Thursday will consider plans to spend $260,000 to replace old bleachers, help build a new concession stand facing the field, and make improvements to the playing surface and lighting at Alumni Field at Cony High School.

Councilors meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Proponents say the improvements are badly needed and would leverage an additional $110,000 in donations of materials and labor to make even more privately funded upgrades at the athletic complex, including new bathrooms, new ticket booths and an arched entryway.

While none of the money would come from this year’s budget, which councilors just approved last week, the funding is held in two Cony-related accounts controlled by the city. Councilors have the final say on whether and how it would be spent.

Bleacher planks have broken during sporting events, causing at least one spectator to fall; and fans using the bleachers risk encounters with splinters, officials said.

A committee that studied the need for Alumni Field fixes recommends the city use $120,000 in funds left unspent when Cony High School was built in 2006, money that was released to the city recently after a state audit of Cony construction funds, to buy the new bleachers. A total of about $285,000 is in the account of funds unspent during new Cony construction.

The committee also recommends the other improvements be funded by $140,000 in Team Cony funds, which is also money left over from construction of the new school.

The private fundraising group raised more than $1.5 million to help build the new school — paying specifically for items such as a larger gymnasium and auditorium that the state would not have funded.

Some pledged donations didn’t come in until after the new high school was completed, however, and those additional funds have gone into a special Team Cony account, overseen by the City Council. About $140,000 is left in the account.

Councilor David Rollins, chairman of the Alumni field study committee, said builder Paul Rodrigue has pledged to contribute and raise private donations of materials and labor to make additional improvements at Alumni Field, including new bathrooms. Rodrigue’s late wife, Maureen, was a secretary at Cony High School until her death from cancer last year.

“Once the city steps forward and says its going to buy the bleachers, we’re going to step forward, with Paul Rodrigue, with a community action plan, a two- to three-year plan to revamp Alumni Field,” Rollins told the Augusta Board of Education recently while describing the proposal. “He wants to do something to honor his bride and all she did for this community. He is committed to raising all the contributions.”

The Team Cony funds would include about $25,000 to help start construction of new concession stands, which would be built with primarily donated labor and materials. The $25,000 in Team Cony funds from the city would provide startup and matching funds for the concession stands project.

The Team Cony funds also would pay for $5,000 for improvements to the playing surface, $60,000 for new lighting, $15,000 in electrical upgrades, $20,000 for audio system improvements, and $10,000 for new football goal posts.

The total value of the finished product would be more than $371,000, including the $110,000 in expected private contributions.

The committee also recommends further study of eventually installing artificial turf at Alumni Field. Officials said the idea needs more study and would involve a major private fundraising campaign. The committee suggests reserving the remaining $165,000 in unspent Cony construction funds until a decision about whether to replace the grass at Alumni Field with artificial turf, or new grass, is made.

Councilors also are scheduled to:

* hear an update on efforts by the Greater Augusta Utility District to establish a backup drinking water supply;

* recognize the Augusta Kiwanis Club’s 90th anniversary and retiring Augusta Fire Department Battalion Chief Ed Charles for his 25 years of service;

* consider final approval of a proposed new contract zone to allow a home next to Paul Blouin Suzuki on Western Avenue to be used as a residence;

* consider granting 2 percent raises to full-time and permanent part-time non-union employees, which officials said would be consistent with raises awarded to union employees;

* set property tax due dates as Sept. 13, 2012 and March 14, 2013; and

* add “tobacco products” to the city’s littering ordinance.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]


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