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Malden City Council approves two-part, $2.5 million expenditure for Roosevelt Park Revitalization project

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After lengthy delay, construction of state-of-the-art, multi-use field and removal of contaminated soil will move forward 

  The Malden City Council at its Tuesday night meeting approved a pair of financial papers that will allocate $2.5 million toward a long-awaited revitalization and restoration of Roosevelt Park on Salem Street. This funding will move the project forward as planned – with a construction timetable announcement now expected. A new addition to the overall park reconstruction project, approved with a unanimous Council vote Tuesday, is funding for the removal of three feet of soil from the entire park to remediate contamination discovered in some parts of the Roosevelt Park site.

  The Roosevelt Park Revitalization Project was initiated in 2018 and is being funded through a number of sources. Funding for the initial project was all in place shortly afterward, but costs rose due to additions and changes made after a series of community meetings with residents as well as staff and students at the adjacent Salemwood K-8 School. Delays ensued due to challenges to various aspects of the proposal, including objection raised by a group with regard to the installation of a synthetic turf surface on a multi-use playing and recreational field on part of the site.

  A major part of the group’s objection to the project was that lead was discovered in some areas of the existing field site. The original project plan was to remove 18 inches of the soil and then install the infrastructure below the synthetic turf surface, which would meet all federal and state guidelines.

  For several years, opponents of the projects have expressed that one of their main requests is to dig deeper, remove three feet (36 inches) of soil – from the entire park site – not just the identified contaminated areas, to ensure the safety of those who would be using the park. Opponents also opposed the use of synthetic turf, citing their preference for a natural grass surface.

  On May 1, communications from the office of Mayor Gary Christenson to the Malden City Council explained two key proposals for expenditure of municipal funds. One would partially satisfy the long-held wishes of opponents of the improvement plan and the other would provide a municipal appropriation for a remaining funding gap in rising costs caused by the innumerable delays in the project.

  Three meetings of the City Council’s Finance Committee – chaired by Councillor-at-Large Carey McDonald – were held where presentations were made by the city’s Office of Strategic Planning and Development, the Malden Recreation Department and the Malden Public Schools (MPS) Athletic Department, citing the critical need for field space for the thousands of public school student-athletes and youth sports programs in the community. Opponents claimed there were safety and health risks associated with the installation of synthetic turf.

  On Tuesday night during the public comment portion of the City Council meeting, four residents spoke in favor of the additional funding for the Roosevelt Park Improvement Project and four spoke against it. The contaminated soil removal portion of the plan did not receive much mention other than a question on the funding mechanism, suggesting already designated funds from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) be used for the soil removal, though this would be against municipal and state regulations since the CPC is specifically prohibited from recommending city projects or expenditures.

  On Tuesday night the City Council received the Finance Committee’s report, and there were some comments on both sides of the issue, with Councillor-at-Large Karen Colón Hayes the most vocal opponent against funding for the project, citing her objection to synthetic turf. Ward 6 Councillor Steve Winslow gave a lengthy address in favor of the project, detailing the history of the project and its merits. Ward 7 Councillor Chris Simonelli also spoke in favor of the project, as did Ward 2 Councillor Paul Condon and City Council President Barbara Murphy (Ward 5), who was the original sponsor of the earliest funding for it. Ward 4 Councillor Ryan O’Malley, while expressing opposition to the synthetic turf aspect of the project, said he was impressed by the positive decorum displayed by Councillors both at the Finance Committee meetings and during Tuesday’s discussion.

  The vote on City Council Paper #139-23, which authorized “That $1.3 million of available general fund free cash be appropriated to fund additional costs associated with improvements to Roosevelt Park,” passed by a 7-4 City Council vote.

  Voting in favor of the financial paper were Councillors Peg Crowe (Ward 1), Paul Condon (Ward 2), City Council President Barbara Murphy (Ward 5), Steve Winslow (Ward 6), Chris Simonelli (Ward 7), Jadeane Sica (Ward 8) and Craig Spadafora (at large). Voting opposed to the paper were Councillors Amanda Linehan (Ward 3), Ryan O’Malley (Ward 4), Karen Colón Hayes (at large) and Carey McDonald (at large).

  The vote on Council Paper #140-23, which authorized borrowing through bonding the sum of $1.2 million “to pay the costs related to a change in scope of the Roosevelt Revitalization Project to excavate additional soils down to a level of three feet” passed by a unanimous, 11-0 City Council vote.

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