Some Dutchess County legislators voted against funding a project worth $2.4 million, meant for improvements to Dutchess Stadium. That vote at Tuesday’s meeting could end minor league baseball in Dutchess County, County Executive Marc Molinaro warned.
"Numbers were brought to us on a Thursday," District 6 Legislator Rebecca Edwards said. "And we're being told on a Tuesday, five days later, that we must vote on this right now."
The project, Molinaro said, would include paving the parking lot, repairing crumbling concrete stairs, and replacing a third of the stadium’s seats.
Edwards was one of the nine “no” votes that sunk the proposed plans — for now.
Edwards, like others who spoke on Tuesday, were upset with the lack of spending plans offered, and at the repairs not being listed in the county's capital improvement plan.
Minority Whip Kristofer Munn told Spectrum News some of the legislators who voted "no" on Tuesday could be convinced to vote "yes" at a later meeting if the county executive presented a detailed spending plan, and memoranda of understanding between the county and the minor-league Hudson Valley Renegades, and between the county and the Beacon City School District.
"No one here wants the team to leave; everyone agrees some work is needed," Munn said. "The problem was the way it was brought to us and the fact that they [administrators] had no plan."
Molinaro told the legislature he recently met with negotiators for the Renegades, a minor-league affiliate of Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays who rent the stadium from Dutchess County. He also met with the school board president for Beacon City Schools, who leases the land beneath the stadium to the county.
Molinaro then expressed concerns over liability after these talks. He said if the legislature did not approve the repair project by the end of the year, the county could lose the stadium and end its agreements with the Renegades and Beacon City Schools.
"We believe they will seek a significant reduction in rent," Molinaro said, "and require the county to assume full liability or responsibility for the risk."
He said he agreed that in civil judgements and out-of-court settlements stemming from injuries at the stadium, the county should take most — if not all — responsibility.
Molinaro said he would not, however, let it get to that point.
"Taxpayers will be put in the position of assuming full liability," Molinaro said. "That's not something that I could responsibly allow to happen, which is why we're asking the legislature and those who voted 'no' to simply reconsider."
In an email on Wednesday evening, Beacon City School Board of Education President Anthony White said the board would discuss the county's plans further at its next meeting on November 19.
The final full meeting of the legislature is on December 3, and a budget meeting is scheduled for December 17. Since the repairs were already passed out of committee, another vote by the full legislature could be taken at either meeting.