Mooney Field Update: Hearing extended to Nov 30th, Rec plans “firm stand”

by beth on November 19, 2020

Residents continue to express frustration over the delay in getting lights installed at Mooney Baseball Field. They aren’t the only ones.

The night following another continuance of the public hearings, Recreation Director Tim Davis took a public stand that the next hearing would be the last. Meanwhile, when the process ends, the discussion between Planning and Rec may be just beginning. A member of the Recreation Commission is urging they hold a “post mortem” to avoid future fiascos.

On Monday night, Davis agreed to extend the Planning Board’s decision deadline and continue the hearing to November 30th. The latest delay was based on critical materials not received from Planning’s consultant engineers. On Tuesday, Davis told the Board of Selectmen he plans to take a “firm stand” on the 30th. He said they wouldn’t be allowing more extensions.

Davis stated that Rec and Southborough Youth Baseball had already made a number of concessions on the project. He projected confidence that he and his team of contractors had given Planning and their engineers everything needed to move forward. Though, on Monday and in materials, Davis acknowledged that they will need Planning to grant some waivers as part of the process.

Speaking as an individual on Monday, Recreation Commission member Kristen Lavault pointed out that Planning Chair Don Morris’ acknowledged the four light project isn’t a big one. She wondered what went wrong in the process. She urged Planning and Rec work together to figure out how to avoid repeating missteps in the future. Lavault also echoed another commenter, and asked to have consultants Fuss & O’Neill participated in the next hearing. Planning members didn’t respond to either request.

On Tuesday, Board of Selectmen Chair Marty Healey referred to the lengthy process as making “everyone in town look like Keystone Cops.” He concurred with Lavault’s post mortem suggestion. (That discussion took place during Davis’ update to selectmen on the Recreation Dept.)

Commenters (both nights) referred to wasted money on consultants caused by the extended process. On Monday, Southborough Little League Vice President David Fialkow criticized the inefficiencies in the process. Complaining to selectmen the next night, he argued that Planning had ignored Town Counsel advice. According to Fialkow, attorney Aldo Cipriano had advised Planning to outline a limited site plan review process. That didn’t happen.

Healey noted he was concerned about some of the comments, in terms of avoiding wasting money on consultants. But he indicated selectmen don’t have jurisdiction on process of the elected Planning Board.

To get a better understanding of the context, here is a basic timeline: 

  • After months/years of communications between Recreation and Planning, the application for Site Plan Review was submitted on September 30th. (According to members of Rec, this included a lot of behind the scenes work by Davis before this date and between dates below. Planning Chair Don Morris has pointed out that Town Planner Karina Quinn has also dedicated a lot of time.)
  • Thursday, October 15th, the applicant received the response from Planning’s peer review engineering consultants (Fuss & O’Neill) with 50 comments on the plans.
  • The public hearing opened on Monday, October 19th. The applicants weren’t ready to respond to all of the comments and said they would be submitting revised plans for the next hearing.
  • The hearing was continued to November 2nd. At the meeting, Davis said he decided not to submit the revised plans yet, wanting to hear all questions from the board first. The hearing was continued to November 16th.
  • On November 9th, Recreation submitted their detailed responses to each comment from F&O and revised plans.
  • On November 16th, Planning and Rec were unable to hash out final decisions because F&O had yet to respond to the new submissions. Chair Don Morris explained to the public that most of the board aren’t engineers and they rely on their consultant’s expertise. 

As for the time it should take F&O to respond, Morris said the time varied by project. He noted the consultants aren’t sitting around waiting for materials from their board. He was hopeful it would be within a few days. As of earlier today, F&O still hadn’t responded.

With Thanksgiving next week, selectmen and Rec expressed concern on Tuesday night about F&O materials arriving in time for Rec to be prepared for the 30th. 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lack of Controls November 20, 2020 at 8:13 AM

The takeaway from the above article is how disrespectful this Recreation department and its representatives are to the public, public processes, and the elected officials who were voted in to represent the public, i.e. planning board. Would like to see more constructive cooperation from Recreation, or removal of the personnel and/or representatives involved. Given the recent articles right here, those individuals have some reading to do. The recent stunning audit of this department is an important item to be read by all (link below). The report speaks to spending by the department and lack of controls. See the link to the Audit Report in the middle of the article (Beth–can you make sure that the link to the report works below? Thank you)

http://www.mysouthborough.com/2020/11/13/residents-appealing-heavily-redacted-response-to-public-records-inquiry-into-towns-handling-of-allegations-against-former-employee/

Here is a key excerpt from the article and a link to the auditor’s report on the Recreation Dept:
“In October, Board of Selectmen Chair Marty Healey publicly indicated that he was in favor of changing the Town’s policy to reduce redactions to public records request. (That didn’t appear to refer to this specific records response. Scroll down for more on that.)
The Town’s response to Kremer included one document without any redactions—a July 2019 audit report on the Southborough Recreation Department. Auditors state:
The accounting department of Southborough, Massachusetts discovered that a department credit card was being used by an employee for personal purposes. The employee paid funds back to the town and is no longer employed with the town. The incident brought about concerns over lack of proper internal controls, revolving specifically around the department. Our report outlines the relevant parties, the procedures taken, the findings we have noted, and our recommendations for implementing an improved internal control system.
The report included four categories of “findings” of concern. Issues related to lack of reconciliation of department records versus the town’s ledger, a gap in internal control over invoice approval, missing details on receipts for funds received, and handling of timesheets for hourly employees. Auditors made recommendations for resolving flagged issues going forward.”

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2 Constructive approach November 20, 2020 at 10:53 AM

The planning board has gone beyond the scope of what town counsel advised them back several years ago. Is ADA compliance in their by-laws? Are other topics they continue to harp on in their by-laws? This project has taken 3 years, to put up 4 light poles, that were approved by the will of town meeting. The chair even agrees that this is a small project, yet here we are at meeting #4 for a small project. They have no desire to get this project completed, the easiest thing to do would be to bring their consultants to the meeting so everyone can discuss the issues, yet I guarantee that this will not be the case.

I’m sorry, there has been a constructive approach for 3 years and where has it gotten this project? Time is up and this is the time to hold people accountable in this town for doing their job in support of the will of town meeting, rather than what the few that have worked to subvert this process want. These have been over 50 letters have been written in support of getting this project completed yet the only one referenced during the meetings is from a former selectman with certain concerns just goes to show you what the planning board cares about. And it’s not the will of town meeting.

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3 Longtime Observer November 20, 2020 at 1:35 PM

Having read the comment by Lack of Controls, it is all starting to make sense now.

The most recent frivolous lawsuit brought by one or more Barron against the town, and the few-in-number but fervent comments in support of the lawsuit seemed excessive for a $250 possible violation by an employee of the Rec Department. I say possible because it could have been theft, or it could have been an inadvertent lack of proper documentation. This insidious criticism of the Rec Department using a credit card to conduct business seemed particularly petty. At the time, I let it go. Chalked it up to lawsuit-happy residents doing what they do.

Now, putting the pieces together, it seems part of a bigger pattern of anti-change residents, who routinely invoke the power of the Planning Board, to frustrate progress on any project. The comments of Lack of Controls about the “disrespect” of the Recreation Department and the obsession with 2019 incident as response to this article make clear to me that there is noise being made about the 2019 incident with the objective of making Rec look bad, so as to deflect from legitimate criticism about the obstructiveness of their beloved Planning Board.

Planning has become the puppet of the anti-change faction in town. It has come to this, that when I hear that Planning is involved, I have a good idea of how the board is going to proceed (or more commonly, impede progress), and who will come out to run interference on Planning’s behalf.

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4 Lack of Controls November 20, 2020 at 3:15 PM

To Constructive Approach – sorry but couldn’t disagree more with your opinion, which is riddled with erroneous information, too much to address here but will try on some bits.

ADA compliance is state law. All cities and towns must comply. Also, at this week’s recent BOS meeting, Rec Department reps stated that they “just started working in earnest on this project in January 2020,” so the bit about 3 years is an overstatement.

Planning Board is an elected board, chosen by the voters of this town to represent and safeguard the taxpayers. The Recreation Department is the subject of a mind-blowing audit report (see link in above comment) that calls out a lack of controls, checks and balances, and the big kahuna of concern: the bypassing of the public and the taxpayers at town meeting via use of the Revolving Fund for capital spending. This is a revelation by this report and simply unbelievable. This department apparently was restructured with an embezzling employee “discharged” and the police called in over stolen funds. The auditors report contains much more information on shocking concerns by various town employees, the Town Accountant, and BOS.

The police detective report cited in the Auditor’s Report states that “someone” called the Worcester District Attorney’s Office. Who called the D.A.’s office? Does anyone know or know how to learn further details on this?

As to Constructive Approach above, suggest strongly that a true constructive approach starts with respect shown to the elected officials on Planning Board who are good professionals, merely responding to incomplete information put before them. For example, on the current construction / lighting plans submitted, one cannot tell the difference between current existing conditions and proposed work to be done. Until this faulty plan is fixed, a contractor would not even know what to do, and that costs the town even more money. But for a more comprehensive view, read the Auditor’s Report: a true constructive approach starts with responsible spending, checks and balances, accountability, and complying quickly on standard questions and procedures that apply to all.

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5 Realist November 20, 2020 at 9:23 PM

Folks anyone who has had to subject themselves to this planning board regarding private or public projects would tell you they simply are looking for anyway to impede all projects and hope the applicants disappear out of frustration. The board has some tie with activists in town about native plants in projects as if the world is coming to an end without them this is just one example of their actions to stop projects over the the smallest most ridiculous issues. The chairman has no idea what’s going on and has lost control of rogue members. Until this board turns over to new rational, fair people who respect private property rights and a desire to promote good solid growth there is no hope whatsoever for Southboro residents… .

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6 Lack of Controls November 23, 2020 at 9:07 AM

Folks, the external professional Auditor’s Report obtained by the Board of Selectmen on the Recreation Department speaks for itself. See the link in the above comments. “. . . one document without any redactions—a July 2019 audit report on the Southborough Recreation Department. . .The incident brought about concerns over lack of proper internal controls, revolving specifically around the department.” Also, who called the District Attorney’s Office? Can someone who knows please help? Town business needs public discussion, please.

To Longtime Observer and Realist, conspiracy theories abound. Everyone who expressed concerns in the Auditor’s Report including town department interviewees, the Town Accountant, BOS members and many others — holy cow — they all must be in on it ! There are a few voices all right: it’s the noisy few developers (let’s face it, how many are there?) and squawking pro-developer hacks looking to line up their next fees off the backs of the taxpayers. The taxpayers have seen this movie before. Boring.

Read the outside Auditor’s Report obtained by the BOS carefully. As much as the conspiracy theorists would like to believe there is some connection between “looking bad” and Planning Board, Recreation needs to read the unrelated shocking report ordered by your boss, the BOS, and straighten up and fly right by following the rules of all town Boards and Departments. These rules apply to everyone.

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7 Curious November 23, 2020 at 10:30 AM

1. Has anyone addressed the lack of involvement at the little league age? I was told, but not certain, there were 5 teams (prior to the virus). This would be down from I believe 20-24 teams at one point when I coached.
2. So is there really any need to put lights in the neighborhoods? As I have said, it might be best to put the lights at Neary, we have the 240/480 Volt connection there now. The field closest to the field can be quoickly made into regualtion for $5k. The lighting electrical connection for Mooney Field constructed from NGRID will be $20-40K, unless things have changed in the past 5 years. Prices typically do not go down with a utility.
3. One time I had asked the former Rec Director about the trash not being removed properly and the early morning use of the fields. I received what I thought was a somewhat arrogant reply that went something like this, “you are so fortunate to have access so close to the Mooney Field”. That is correct but it is a residential neighborhood. So I thought it was somewhat of an innapropriate reply by a person paid by out tax dollars.

So maybe before we waste any more time or money, just let it rest for a couple of years to see if little league baseball interest picks back up. I doubt it will, all sports have become specialized and run by what I call “Post Graduate High School softball stars”. A little tongue in cheek there as I once enjoyed playing softball after high school.

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8 are we nuts? November 24, 2020 at 4:46 PM

5 little league teams – and we’re talking some “need” for lighting for night games?

Really?!?

Baseball is played in the summer months, correct? That would be the time of the year when there’s daylight til 8:30 PM or later.

These 5 teams cannot play a baseball game while it’s still light outside?

There aren’t other, more pressing, problems in Southborough that need attention?

This whole thing seems absurd – even worse than lighting for tennis!

Neighborhoods don’t need: the light pollution, increased traffic & noise associated with these proposed nighttime activities.

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