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By Dave Boyce
Almanac Staff Writer
The goal seems within reach of finding $588,000 to begin a project to renovate Ford (baseball) Field at 3399 Alpine Road in Portola Valley in time for the spring 2013 baseball season.
The Alpine-West Menlo Little League, having donated $50,000, pledged another $50,000, according to a recent report to the Town Council. Meanwhile the Sand Hill Foundation, which put on the table a matching grant of up to $100,000, has shown a willingness to consider some funds from the Little League and the town as fulfilling the criteria to qualify for a match.
A unanimous council on May 9 gave Public Works Director Howard Young the go-ahead to solicit bid packages. The timing is tight; if the project doesn't start in June, autumn rains could foil the planting of the sod.
With two state grants totaling $232,000, private donations of $18,500 so far, and a private pledge for another $10,000, the project would still have a projected shortfall of about $149,500, according to a report by Parks & Recreation Committee chair Jon Myers.
The Little League has also shown a willingness to contribute up to $40,000 more toward the shortfall, with the town making up the rest.
Clarification: Possible sources for the remaining $109,000 could include up to $40,000 from the town's general fund, another $48,500 paid by the town for preliminary project costs, and another $22,000 in donations.
If the fundraising goals go unmet, the council still has the option of pulling the plug on the project in June.
The town had an ace in the hole at one time that, even though its clout is much diminished, might be useful: a gift of $2.6 million in restricted stock related to naming rights for the baseball field at Town Center, stock that is now unrestricted and now saleable but now worth only $75,000, Councilman Ted Driscoll said.
In return for its financial assistance, the Alpine-West Menlo Little League -- the sole organized user of Ford Field -- requested several conditions in a letter. Among them: a limit to annual field user-fee increases of no more than 10 percent, and a town review of the status of the so-called "resurrection" tree, a diseased, elderly and fragile hollowed-out oak that, with the help of external supports, overlooks the home team dugout along the first-base line.
The letter also put a shot across the town's bow: "The town will consider the costs related to liability for personal injury as part of its review."
The town commissioned independent arborists to investigate the tree's health in the spring of 2008. The verdicts in six reports were uniformly negative for the tree, but it got a reprieve thanks to significant moral support in town and having responded well to having its foliage trimmed.