Spagnola defends against Hatzenbuhler’s accusations on turf project


A resolution canceling the installation of artificial turf at Shuttleworth Park was tabled at yesterday’s common council meeting, but not before Parks and Recreation Director Robert Spagnola responded to numerous questions from 4th Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler.

The resolution, which was sponsored by Hatzenbuhler, claims that there was $5,000 worth of damage done to the playing field when it was plowed without authorization by the city in January 2014. It also claims that the use of a “laser for leveling” for installation of the artificial turf was waived and therefore may “result in cancellation of the warranty.”

Hatzenbuhler cited two unnamed persons as the source of her information.

According to Spagnola, the main baseball field was plowed under his direction in late fall of 2013 in anticipation of work being done related to the turf project. The work was eventually postponed due to weather. Spagnola said the plowing resulted in “no damage whatsoever.”

Mayor Ann Thane asked Hatzenbuhler about who she had talked to before introducing the resolution. Hatzenbuhler replied she had talked to other council members, but not Spagnola.

“So why would you not discuss this with the department head?” Thane asked.

“I just forgot to discuss this with the department head,” replied Hatzenbuhler.

Hatzenbuhler asked several more questions related to the age ranges and types of teams that play on the main field at Shuttleworth, asking for a list of all the teams who had played on the field and when from the past three years. Spagnola replied that the current schedule was on the Dept. of Recreation website, but that he wasn’t sure if he had records from previous years.

Spagnola questioned Hatzenbuhler’s reasons for asking. “I wonder what your motive is in this,” he said.

Both Hatzenbuhler and 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggerio stated that it was their understanding the purpose of the artificial turf project was to help persuade Union College to enter into a contract for use of the field for their baseball team.

Hatzenbuhler asked what the “real reason” was that Union had backed out of a long-term contract and if it was because the field dimensions did not satisfy regulations.

“That’s absolutely not true,” asserted Spagnola.

He also explained that the purpose of the artificial turf project had nothing to do with Union College or the Amsterdam Mohawks baseball team and rather was to save on maintenance expenses. According to Spagnola, his requested budget for 2014 is lower than last year’s in part because of an expected $5,000 to $10,000 savings on field maintenance.

Later in the evening, Haztenbuhler again cited an unnamed source as informing her that Union College would not be playing at the field at all. Spagnola said that Union had already scheduled 14 dates for 2014.

Hatzenbuhler then went on to ask whether the supplier of the artificial turf was put out to bid. Spagnola replied that bidding for the supplier was handled by a state cooperative purchasing network and that they looked at proposals from three different companies before making their choice.

Haztenbuhler asked if the contractor selected to install the turf, Gabriel Contractors Inc. would use a laser leveling device on a daily basis to make sure the turf was being installed correctly. Spagnola replied that a professional surveyor would be involved in the project to do that, but did not confirm any specific type of leveling device would be used.

Hatzenbuhler then implied a connection between work done for free to clear out extra parking lots at Shuttleworth (which according to Spagnola was contributed by Eric Pereene) and Gabriel Contractors Inc.

“I have to wonder why someone would donate that much time and effort,” said Hatzenbuhler.

“I’m insulted and offended,” replied Spagnola.

Controller Matthew Agresta informed the council that if the artificial turf project was canceled, that all the remaining money set aside for the project from a Bond Anticipation Note (BAN) as well as the $13,000 to $14,000 already spent on the project would have to be returned immediately.

At the suggestion of 3rd Ward Alderman Ron Barone, the resolution was tabled.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.