Town Meeting: Recreation’s 3 wins and 2 losses send them back to drawing board

by beth on April 10, 2018

Post image for Town Meeting: Recreation’s 3 wins and 2 losses send them back to drawing board

Above: The Recreation Commission got the go ahead for projects at two of the fields used by Southborough youth sports. But their pipeline and plan for rotating and resting fields took a blow. (image from presentation)

Last night, the Recreation Commission scored three big wins, but were disappointed by two big losses. Vice Chair Kristin Lavault acknowledged that the Commission would have to return to the drawing board to reevaluate their plans for Recreation fields.

Town Meeting dedicated close to two hours to Recreation field project Articles. In the end, they supported borrowing up to $476,900 on repairs to Depietri field (at the Neary parking lot) and the Trottier running track. They also agreed to borrow up to $75,000 to research how to handle Lundblad field.

What didn’t pass muster with voters was a plan to repair the grass field at Kallander and invest in a phased project to build a Town-owned turf field at Neary.

After some debate, voters were convinced to invest in needed repairs at the Depietri field and the Town track. And many supported the need for fixing Kallander. But even among those who supported Town fields, there were worries that money spent on that field would be wasted.

Kallander Field has been plagued with drainage issues. The source of those problems was at the heart of much debate.

Storm water from the Carriage Hill 55+ luxury condo development runs downhill to field. Planning Board Chair Don Morris and Public Works Director Karen Galligan explained that the runoff was always in the plan. Galligan and the Rec Commission’s consultant both explained that fixes were needed to the drainage systems surrounding the field. Those were covered as part of the $267,400 requested for field repairs.

Rec furthered that if they discovered that the drainage fixes wouldn’t be enough without lessening the source water, they would stop the project. But opponents weren’t satisfied with those answers or promises.

In a dissenting opinion, Advisory member Dorian Jasinski called for bigger fixes to first be made at the hill top. Jasinski reported that the water runs through land owned by SOLF (the Southborough Open Land Foundation.) She walked the area with SOLF and saw Carraige Hill drainage basins that haven’t been maintained and are no longer working properly.

Town Counsel advised that the Town couldn’t find that Carriage Hill was legally committed to maintain the basins. But SOLF President Whitney Beals argued that SOLF had secured a promise from the association in the past. They had been cleanign the basins out, but stopped years ago. He said they need to be compelled to fix their issues.

The majority of voters supported the project, but it failed to meet the 2/3 required to pass.

A $200K investment in developing a turf field was more decisively defeated. Selectmen and Advisory both voted to not support the project based on the economic climate and other Town needs. John Butler called for Rec to come back with a full plan that includes construction. 

The former Advisory member warned Town Meeting about repeating past mistakes. He referred to a past study on building a new police station. Due to an economic downturn and other issues, the project was scrapped after hundreds of thousands were spent on a study. When the project was brought back, a new study had to be done. With an initial $2M estimate for the turf field, he wasn’t sure voters would pass the end project.

Other voter concerns included health risks around fill used under turf fields, and plans that include lighting the field on the Neary/Trottier campus. Lavault pitched that the design work was to include public input. That would allow voters to weigh in on whether to spend more on organic fill and on lighting. The majority of the hall voted to oppose the project.

The final Rec project up for vote was a field at Lunblad. Recreation pitched the large parcel as having a lot of potential. But the site is a former landfill with membrane beginning to peek through. They can’t project a cost on that project without taking a better look at the issues and options.

Jessica Devine, asked Lavault how Rec’s plans to rotate and rest fields were impacted by the two failed votes. Lavault admitted that the setback meant scrapping the plan they developed to rotate and rest fields. They’ll have to return to the drawing board.

Devine urged voters that with two failed field projects, the investigation of Lunblad was really needed. The project passed with 68.2% of the vote.

Although the votes weren’t “secured” last night, don’t worry about tom foolery tonight. Anyone seeking to reconsider an Article (that passed or failed) will need to provide a compelling reason. (Look for more on that later today.)

Updated (4/11/18/ 7:14 am): I updated my statement that Butler didn’t think that a $2M field project would pass. He pointed out in comments below that he didn’t know one way or the other – and that was his issue.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dan April 10, 2018 at 2:00 PM

One compelling reason to revisit vote tonight could be that many of those who support the Rec plan are parents of young kids, and this particular vote happened so late that we could no longer all be in attendance.

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2 Kelly Roney April 10, 2018 at 2:56 PM

Do fields really need to be rested one year out of five?!

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3 John Butler April 10, 2018 at 5:30 PM

I have no opinion about whether a $2 million proposal for a turf field at Neary would pass a future Town Meeting, or whether it should. Maybe it should. You reported correctly that I spoke in opposition to spending $200,000 on a plan, without having all the financial considerations before the voters on the approximate full cost of completing the work and any other capital costs for recreation over a normal capital planning horizon. I suggest we make an estimate, do the financial analysis on the whole project, before voting $200,000 without knowing if we want to pay for the whole thing. The proposed approach of voting only an expensive plan has wasted too much money in the past.

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4 beth April 11, 2018 at 7:16 AM

I apologize for misstating your concern. I changed the wording to the fact that you were unsure if it would pass.

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5 Jo d April 11, 2018 at 9:02 AM

I understand that the meetings run late, are long and boring, but the lack of participation in town meeting is appalling.
I grew up in town and sold refreshments with the Girl Scouts at town meeting in the eighties. I remember the Woodward gym being packed and stuffy. Last night there were barely a hundred people to have a quorum. Monday night there seemed to be as many retirees as people of parenting age voting for sports fields. This is not the demographic of this town.
I asked the other parents at the bus stop this morning. Shrugs and excuses that they were too busy with driving their kids around. The meeting is at 7:00. I know families are busy, but it seems like most in town have two parents. Surely one could take care of the kids while the other goes to town meeting one night a year. The recreation department even offered baby sitters.
To me it seems like a small sacrifice to keep the stingy old people from voting down things that matter to the kids in town. On Monday night one of the coaches attributed a concussion and several sprained ankles to our poor fields. It seems like that would take more time and would be more unpleasant than spending four hours at town hall.

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6 JOJAMA April 11, 2018 at 11:21 AM

JO d…..I do agree with your argument, but your delivery is awful. Remember this is Town Meeting, there are different points of view. Calling old people stingy is not a way to garner support. It will do quite the opposite! May I add calling out neighbors is probably not a good idea either! I have gone from having infants to now being an almost empty nester and my passions and the way I express them has evolved.
Please be respectful of all opinions.

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7 J David April 11, 2018 at 7:39 PM

“(s)tingy old people”? You have got to be kidding me!!

You grew up in town (as I did), so you should know that many of those “stingy old people” have lived in town for many years, decades, and for some, all of their lives!! They have raised their children (including yourself) in town, and made plenty of contributions for their children (and others) over the years. They have contributed countless thousands of tax dollars on our beautiful state-of-the-art schools, fields, roads, safety and so many other projects that have shaped Southborough into what it is today!! Many have even volunteered on various town boards and committees, or worked for peanuts as election wardens, call firemen, and special police officers, contributing countless hours for nothing, or next-to-nothing for the betterment of the community. If it wasn’t for the sacrifice and generosity of many of these “stingy old people” for decades, Southborough would not be the desirable and highly sought after community that it is today for you and so many others to enjoy.

Remember, unlike you, “stingy old people” are on fixed incomes, and have to pick and choose what they can afford in their fixed budget.

JOJAMA is correct – you get more with honey than vinegar. Instead of trashing the “stingy old people”, you should shake their hands and thank then for helping to build this beautiful town into the oasis in the middle of the MetroWest jungle. Then you should have logical debate and not mean-spirited mud-slinging.

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8 Anne Jones April 11, 2018 at 9:08 PM

Jo, I’m one of those “stingy old people” who attend town meeting regularly, although I’d use the word “frugal” rather than “stingy” to describe us retirees. Yes, I voted against all the articles advocating expenditure on the athletic fields. I did so because of the exorbitant amount of community money this project would cost in general, and more specifically, I’m not convinced that our kids need expensive, state-of-the-art turf fields. Other needs in the town seem much more important to me. For example, lots of sidewalks are in poor condition, and I’d prefer to see the sidewalks repaired before we spend huge sums on the sports fields.
But even though my priorities are different than yours, I respect your right to differ with me. I hope that, in the future, you’ll avoid nasty adjectives like “stingy” when you describe people who don’t agree with you.

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9 southsider April 11, 2018 at 11:23 AM

“stingy old people”… not very nice.

Those stingy old people ok’d a lot of incremental spending this week.

That a $200k study to propose a $2million ball field that might not get approved ran into some difficulty wasn’t because old people were “stingy”….

seems a very unfair comment to me

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10 SB Resident April 11, 2018 at 11:36 AM

Personally I’m saddened by how it went because the fields all do need work and I wanted to vote for more common sense measures to bring our fields up to a higher level and this just delays everything.

This money isn’t small money and Rec went too big. I don’t think we need every field in town to be perfectly crowned and irrigated. We could have repaired and made safer more fields for less money. Second they went with the 30% contingency amount, this made their numbers look quite a bit bigger than they really were. Third, the presentation with the fields need rest ever so many years etc. was off putting. I’m sure it is better for the fields, but come on, this is town rec sports, not the premier league. Lastly there was no expected vision for the turf field, the 200k was used because of the 10% rule, but that rule is used for the actual design of something when they were playing this off as more of a feasibility study/design. They should have asked for 50k to come up with a preliminary plan to get the 200k the next time. But with 200k on the line I think Mr Butler’s view is the correct view. Let’s decide what we want first before we sink 200k into it, the other way just feels like politics to force us into doing something because we already sunk so much into it.

Personally I’m not convinced we need a turf field but even if we do, I’m not sure Neary is the spot. As a kid I hated them, it changed the entire pace of soccer and I’d always get terrible skin burns. I also always thought they were lower maintenance, no grass cutting, watering, or chemicals, but turns out I’m apparently wrong there too. In general turf fields tend to be off limits to the general public and the Neary field space is one that I don’t think we should limit general recreation on. The kids in summer camp use that space all summer long, let alone just general recesses from school, summer nights, etc. We all know if we are spending that kind of cash on the field that lighting is coming along for the ride and I’m sure the Deerfoot Rd residents aren’t going to be too happy about that. Lastly, the entire school of Neary is going to eventually become an issue. The trailer park class rooms have to go and with our shrinking enrollment, I know we have plenty of space to get rid of them. Figuring all that out needs to be part of any high priced long term plan for the Neary fields.

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11 beth April 11, 2018 at 12:53 PM

I think much of your comment is very well said. I didn’t take a public position, but I was worried about turf at Neary for some of the reasons you have shared. The idea that turf might not be good for kids to play on was also raised at a Board of Selectmen meeting so the Rec Commission could be prepared to respond. And I never heard them address it.

So, I agree with your point. A smaller investment in vetting out the pros and cons better to decide whether or not it’s worth pursuing would have been more palatable. They may have been able to convinced me to support that.

But I partly disagree with your position that they shouldn’t have talked about resting of the fields. Instead, I think it required better explanation.

Field resting is part of why they needed more fields in the pipeline, why they wanted turf, and how they planned to avoid running into the same problems down the road as we have now. Overplaying of the fields has been blamed for why the fields are so deteriorated.

That said, you’re certainly not the first to question if the rest is really needed. And while people had convinced me in the past that it is – I couldn’t find anything in any of Rec’s materials that explains why or points to studies/data supporting it. I also couldn’t find anything in quick google searches.

So, if it is really true – as they seem to believe it is – then I think they need to do a better job of sharing the supporting data with residents/voters.

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