HUDSON — The first step of a two-phase $200,000 project to upgrade the four baseball fields at Barlow Farm Park is expected to happen before the end of the year.

Council on Oct. 29 unanimously approved having a contractor make landscaping maintenance repairs meant to improve the safety of the fields at the park along Barlow Road.

The improvements to the fields were needed "due to years of excessive wear and failing infrastructure," said city spokesperson Jody Roberts. "These issues are now creating unsafe conditions and poor playability."

The city received quotes for phase one of the project and agreed to pay Vizmeg Landscape Inc. $52,400 for the work. Vizmeg was already under contract to do landscaping work for the city, and council last month agreed to amend that pact to have Vizmeg perform the work on the fields.

Mayor David Basil thanked council for authorizing the additional work.

"I think the fields at Barlow will be in much better shape for play next year and we’ll be positioned to continue with the rest of the project hopefully a year from now ... the safety of the kids who are playing on those fields is our primary concern all the time," said Basil.

Roberts noted that the city had already planned to improve the fields in 2020, but said the conditions "got so bad that we needed to move that safety portion up [to this year]."

Weather permitting, Roberts said the work would occur during the next month or two. Another $150,000 in repairs are planned for fall 2020.

"With the water pooling [on the field], that makes it a big safety issue with kids running around there," said Roberts. "... This summer was particularly wet. The little bit of problems we’ve been having were just amplified."

Roberts said coaches of baseball teams that played on the fields this year voiced concerns about safety and playability.

City officials then spoke with several field consultants to determine a solution to correct the adverse conditions. The problems, according to Roberts, included:

• The initial field construction provided runoff drainage through the infield dugout areas. During the past 15 years, this setup caused infield baseline issues with safety and playability, particularly during wet seasons like the one earlier this year.

• The original soil materials used to construct the infields has a very high silt content that allows the infields to "move" with rainfall and wind. Subsurface drainage originally placed is no longer functioning.

"These issues need to be addressed to provide safe, functioning fields," said Roberts.

Roberts said the renovations happening this year include lowering the field elevation and regrading to improve drainage around the dugout areas and away from the infields. Existing materials under the fence lines and along all baselines will be removed. The outfield/infield interface would be stripped and re-seeded so it can receive the new grading. In the final step, the fields would be laser graded "for positive drainage and safe playability," said Roberts.

More work slated for 2020

In the second phase, planned for fall 2020, work will be done to integrate the new infield mix material which Roberts said "alleviates the concern about high silt content and provides for proper water drainage and repelling capabilities."

An infield sub-surface drainage system will be installed for increased infield drainage capacity. Infield baseline sod would help with drainage direction flow and filtration. Sub-surface fortification bricks would be installed at pitchers’ mounds and the home plate area for improved wear tolerance, safety and playability.

The city is earmarking $150,000 in the 2020 budget for this second phase, which will be bid out next year.

Both phases of this project are being paid for with money from the Parks Fund budget.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.