October 23, 2021

Petition seeks vote on Gutchess park contract

Photo provided by Cortland Youth Bureau

The Gutchess Lumber Sports Park is shown above in its current state. Cortlandville is getting Phase 2 of the project underway, which will include adding two baseball diamonds, more parking and grading.

The Cortlandville Town Board ordered its attorney to review a petition calling for a referendum on a contract that would require the expansion of Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex, but stopped short Wednesday night of officially receiving it.

The petition garnered 243 signatures, more than enough to require the town to have a referendum on whether to accept the Aug. 4 agreement with Prep Baseball Report.

The agreement would see PBR pay the town $18,667 per month or $218,000 per year for use, town documents show. The 10-year agreement has two five-year renewal options.

PBR would receive all income from events it hosts while the town would receive all income from games by the Cortland Crush, The Cortland Junior Crush, Cortland High School, Homer High School and Little League games.

As part of the agreement, the town must build two baseball fields, additional parking and a concession and maintenance building, the document said. The cost of the two fields is between $750,000 and $1 million.

At the start of the meeting, resident Pam Jenkins, who is campaigning for a seat on the town board, said details of the agreement had not been shared with the public until at the Aug. 4 town board meeting, giving the public no time to comment on it.

She also said the town has spent at least $4.1 million on the complex so far and is in $2.7 million of debt because of it. This, though, could not be confirmed.

Resident Bob Martin, Jenkins’ husband, also questioned claims of the town sales tax revenue to cover the costs of funding to build it.

Martin said he calculated, at a 2% inflation rate increase per year, that the town would lose $936,827 of revenue over the 20 years of the agreement.

Town Supervisor Tom Williams said that early estimated sales tax revenue for 2021 is up $1 million, but did not have specific figures.

Prior to the vote, board member Douglas Withey, who is running against Williams for town supervisor, said he wanted the petition received and filed.

“This is not against the complex,” he said. “This is against the contract, and any business plan to accept this contract, to me, is wrong.”

Withey said that he has asked three times for a cost-benefit analysis of the agreement before it was accepted, but he never got one.

Williams said he was disappointed with Withey because Withey “took it up himself to work outside the team,” or the board, in canvassing for the petition.

“I have been criticized by people for bringing too much stuff to the board, too much minutiae,” Williams said. “But I feel we are a team of five and should act as a team of five.”

Withey also questioned why the petition could not be accepted and filed, which Williams said based on DelVecchio’s advice, would be unwise.

“If that’s the best we can do, I’ll have to accept that,” Withey said.

“It’s the best I can do, Doug,” Williams responded. “We have people in place to do things for us.”