Are the baseball diamonds at Walsh Field too expensive to maintain? The Belfast City Council took up this question May 4 after receiving a single bid for groundskeeping of the recreational city park that several councilors argued was too much.

Walsh Field was built by MBNA in 1997 as a replacement for a baseball field that had stood on the Belmont Avenue parcel developed by the credit card company. MBNA’s successor, Bank of America, inherited the Walsh Field and in 2007 gave it as a gift to the city.

On Tuesday, several city councilors argued against maintaining the fields at their current level. The cost of maintaining the fields includes water and servicing of an irrigation system that, according to Parks officials, is necessary for the type of grass that grows on the field. The watering system was viewed by several councilors as an extravagance.

Councilor Eric Sanders suggested letting the grass go without irrigation and ultimately replacing it with a type that can grow on water from rainfall.

Sanders’ comments appeared to relate not only to cost but also to the environmental impact of maintaining turf, and Councilor Marina Delune also expressed interest in scaling back the fields’ upkeep as a way to cut costs and lessen the environmental impact.

Councilor Lewis Baker recommended scaling back for financial reasons. “We’re going to have expensive issues if we maintain the mindset that we have to keep it up to the level that MBNA did,” he said.

The company that currently maintains the grounds, Farley and Son of Rockport, submitted the only bid to the city. Parks Director Jim Bell said promotion of the contract was comparable to that of other city contracts. The bid from Farley came in at $15,400 for the first year of a three-year contract, with annual increases, up to $16,661 in 2012.

Bell recommended against the suggestion made by several councilors to scale back maintenance of the fields. As an alternative, he suggested that the city could charge a fee to groups that use the fields, but several, including Delune and Mayor Walter Ash, were opposed to the idea.

Ash voiced his support for maintaining the fields at their current levels, saying that the fields shouldn’t receive less maintenance when other city facilities, like the tennis courts and pool in City Park, are getting regular upkeep. “If we’re not going to take care of it, maybe we shouldn’t have accepted it in the first place,” he said.

Bell noted that the use of the fields had increased in the two and a half years the city has owned them. Where the fields saw three all-star games last year, Bell anticipated there would be 13 in the coming year.

Ash equated the extra traffic from these games with an economic development benefit. “Those people are coming from somewhere outside of Belfast,” he said. “Those people are going to be spending money in town. I can see the good of it, the payback.”

Councilor Roger Lee agreed, but recommended asking Farley and Son for a one-year contract, during which time the city could weigh its options. Several city officials expressed skepticism that Farley and Son would agree to pare back the contract to a single year, and Lee himself raised concerns that the expiration of the one-year contract would provide the company with a reason to raise the rates significantly. But the Council voted to give it a try.

In other business, the Council:

Approved a parade and rededication ceremony for the footbridge. The former Route 1 bridge was known as Veterans’ Memorial Bridge until the new bridge was built. The old bridge commemorated fallen World War I soldiers from Waldo County. A plaque bearing their names disappeared some time back, but at the meeting, representatives of Friends of the Bridge, the group organizing the rededication, proposed that they might replace the plaque with one of cast aluminum.

In response to concerns from several members of the City Council that the aluminum would oxidize, the group agreed to look at other options. Bronze — the material of the original plaque — was deemed too expensive. The group also requested to rename the bridge “Armistice Bridge” in the tradition of the pre-World War II holiday Armistice Day, which celebrated the belief that the first war was “the war to end all wars.” In the mid-1950s, the holiday was recast as Veteran’s Day. The Council approved the new name for the bridge.

Accepted a bid from Lane Construction to repave municipal parking lots on Washington and Cross streets. City Manager Joe Slocum said he hoped the work would be completed this summer.