League says field maintenance has suffered after budget cuts

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BLOOMFIELD — Bloomfield’s budget cuts have led to maintenance problems at its sports fields, according to an officials of a local softball league.

“Sandy Koufax Field is full of goatheads and stickers,” said Autumn McMurry, the Four Corners Fastpitch Bloomfield representative. “The infield has grass in it.”

The softball program offers teams for children ages 5 to 18. The league includes Farmington, Aztec, Bloomfield and Durango, Colorado, teams. The league contracts with the various cities for use of the sports fields.

McMurry asked Bloomfield to increase its parks department budget, which was one of the departments hit during budget cuts about two years ago.

The city of Bloomfield laid off six full-time employees and two part-time employees in November 2016 to make up for reduced gross receipts tax revenue. Three of those full-time employees worked in the parks department.

The gross receipts tax makes up the majority of the city’s general fund. The reduced revenue was linked to the downturn in the oil and gas industries, which make up the majority of the city’s economic base.

Fastpitch coach David Rightmire said the people who work in the parks department do a good job, but they do not have the funding or the staff to properly maintain the fields.

“When they’re hamstrung, it’s kind of hard to do the job,” he said.

As an example, he highlighted the locked batting cages at the softball fields complex in Bloomfield.

“We’ve got a wonderful set of batting cages down there,” he said.

Rightmire said he had to take his team to Farmington and pay to use batting cages at Strike Zone, a training facility. Rightmire said there is no one to unlock the batting cages in Bloomfield so his hitters can take swings there.

Last month, the city asked the Bloomfield Youth Baseball league to provide some of the maintenance on the baseball fields.

During the March 26 City Council meeting, Public Works director Jason Thomas said last year the baseball league paid the city to hire a seasonal parks employee.

Thomas said the seasonal parks employee ultimately did not meet the league's needs because it took too many man-hours, and there wasn't enough time to train the employee.

The youth baseball league will use city equipment to maintain the fields, according to its agreement with the city. Field maintenance was not something included in the softball agreement, according to the document the city signed with the league.

“Sporting events within our city are extremely important to our kids,” McMurry said. “They don’t have a movie theater. They don’t have a bowling alley. They don’t have anything else. They have sports.”

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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