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.