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Field Issue Heads to Extra Innings

Organizers of a referendum petition used a late push to apparently put the issue of bonding $350,000 for a softball field for Little League girls softball on Hoyden's Lane into the hands of the town's voters. While 2,200 signatures have been turned in to the town clerk, the names must be confirmed as registered voters. The group, No More Bonding, claims on its website that the signatures will be valid and expect to hand in 300 more by the 4:30 p.m. deadline Tuesday. It needed around 1,900 signatures to force a referendum.

A statement on the website reads, "it became clear to organizers during their short and intense 14-day petition drive that the majority of voters are in overwhelming support of fiscal restraint and that is their number one priority."

The softball field plan for a lot owned by the town, known as the Parsell's property, was approved last month by the RTM, 22-20. Members of that body, including Kathryn Braun and Liz Hoffmann have been vocal supporters of the No More Bonding group.

David Becker, representative of District 1 said, "This item has become so controversial that I feel a referendum may be the best way to settle it at this time." He would like to see the facts straightened out, because there has been a lot of mis-information.

Others agreed. "I am not surprised there will be a referendum since I believe our residents were not given all of the facts behind the bonding," said Bill Llewellyn of District 7, stating that the issue became more about the softball field, a small part of the funding, rather than the additional items. The plan also includes money to demolish a house on the property. Money would also be set aside to build infrastructure for the field, a neighboring golf driving range and a two-acre organic teaching farm.

Cristin McCarthy-Vahey, the RTM minority leader said the referendum push shows the town has an active electorate, one of its strengths.

"The signatures collected show that there are certainly many voters who are concerned about this issue," McCarthy-Vahey said. "Whether or not the majority of Fairfield voters share the views of those who signed the petition will be determined through the town-wide vote."

First Selectman  Ken Flatto said that "government by referendum is not a good way to conduct public business because it is a fact that town's citizens emotions often overwhelm information," while the town's bodies hear lengthy presentations and hear many views.

Flatto does not believe a referendum is necessary for a "small appropriation for a genuine project that the Board of Finance supported 7 to 1." He said he believes the referendum is not a town-wide issue, but one sparked in district 2, where the field would be located, with signatures mainly gathered by those from that area. He has not received any emails or had anyone else in town tell him they are opposed to the field.

The referendum could take place in mid-August. At least 25 percent of the town's voters (8,827 of 35,310 registered) must vote to overturn the RTM's decision, regardless of the turnout.

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