This week, two selectmen let their displeasure be known about the Article to fund Kallander Field repairs. The focus was the mechanism for bringing $248,300 request to voters. Bypassing approval from the Board of Selectmen, the Recreation Commission Co-chair organized a Citizen’s Petition Article.
Recreation Co-Chair Kristen Lavault rebutted an accusation that the Commission was just unhappy with the April vote. She defended that last minute concerns raised the day of Town Meeting hadn’t given the Commission fair time to respond. Now that they have had time to look into it, they want a chance to address those concerns for voters. She will be working with the Commission’s consultant to address the issues raised. (For those answers, scroll to the bottom of the story.)
She explained that the Kallander project came out of what they discovered this year were “very immediate needs” and a long road to meet them. Their main concern is maintaining safety on Town fields. Following the failed vote, the commission received overwhelming response from people who wanted to bring it back.
But selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf made it clear that she was angered by the choice and the precedent being set. She said that the Board had given Recreation “a pass” to go to Annual Town meeting, while saying no to other important asks. Referring to money that’s very tight, she lamented:
We are not even funding the essential of a [full day] Kindergarten class and yet we’re running Town Meeting on Petition Articles. . . I caution Recreation. I know you have the support, but you do not want this government managed this way.
Phaneuf worried about the message sent to other departments. And she referred to other hard choices the Board has made not to increase Town spending. The selectwoman also worried about one department being overextended as costs are constrained for others.
Selectwoman Lisa Braccio echoed concerns. She said that the board has always been supportive of Recreation. And, she supports Citizens Petitions – except for relating to a Capital Expense item. She believes that Town departments should work in collaboration as a team, following the same standards. She worried about a future where departments and committees use Citizen Petitions to compete for funding.
Lavault assured that the Commission is committed to incorporating their future spending into the Town’s Capital Expense plan.
Former Recreation Chair, Selectman Brian Shifrin voiced support for the project. He said he understood questions about the method Recreation took, but he defended it.
Shifrin praised the work that the Town’s budget team did going into Town Meeting. His one criticism was that they need to be more receptive and flexible when there is a project outside of that plan that has widespread community support.
Earlier in the discussion, Phaneuf pushed Southborough Youth Soccer Association for answers about their involvement in the Fay Field project at Mill Street.
Phaneuf was frustrated that after she raised questions about it earlier this year, SYSA changed text on their website to promise an update in mid-April. She accused them of waiting for Town Meeting approval on Recreation projects before sharing the status, hoping Rec projects would replace the Fay one. She followed, if SYSA had money to fund the Fay project they have money to fund some of the Kallander project.
SYSA President Colin Hines told the board that they are still working with Fay. But he said that the financials had been challenging since their numbers have been declining over the past five years. He said that while that model used to look “really good” now they’re trying to be “really conservative about our spend”. He confirmed that the group would want to use both Fay and Town fields, saying they were using a multi-pronged approach to meet their needs.
As for the issues related to the actual field project. . .
Opponents to the project, including the President of Southborough Open Land Foundation, claimed at Town Meeting that problems on Carriage Hill’s property were causing drainage issues down the hill.
On Tuesday, Public Works Superintendents Karen Galligan, said the basin up at Carriage Hill has been maintained properly. She said that, if the property lines are where SOLF believes them to be, the issue is with drainage and a trench that are on SOLF land. For the Town to fix issues and maintain the system easements may be required. But if SOLF doesn’t allow access for that, the Town can still intercept the water on the Kallander field property.
Braccio said they had a positive meeting with representatives of Carriage Hill and SOLF, but noted that their boards had yet to vote. She didn’t want to tell Town Meeting one thing and have a different outcome. But Shifrin disagreed. He indicated that based on Galligan’s report, those votes were irrelevant.
The discussion all took place within the Pre-Town Meeting run-through at Tuesday’s BOS Meeting. You can see the full discussion via Southborugh Access Media’s video. Click here to go straight to the topic.