Playing under the lights: Mooney and Richardson light projects complete (Updated)

Above: Five years after these CPA lighting Projects were approved, they are finally complete.(images posted to Facebook by Southborough Recreation)

Sharing news yesterday on the upcoming Public Info Hearing about Community Preservation Act projects reminded me of an update I’d yet to share on previously approved projects. Two Town lighting projects that have been over five years in the making were finally completed last month.

Richardson Lights flyerRecently, Southborough Recreation posted the image right. It describes how the public can make use of the lights at Richardson Tennis Courts (at Neary School campus) to play after dark.

A button accessible to the public triggers the light for 30 minute increments. At 9:00 pm, lighting is permanently cutoff for the night.

They also posted the photo below last month of kids playing baseball under the lights at Mooney field. (Click images to enlarge)

Mooney lights

Since earlier than 2010, parents of kids in Southborough Youth Baseball were talking about installing lights at the baseball diamond next to Finn School. In January of 2017, the Zoning Board of Appeals opened related hearings.

Rec was seeking height variances to install extra lights on extra tall poles at the field. At the same time they sought a similar variance to light up the Richardson Courts.

There were some controversies with neighbor opposition and multiple hearing continuances. But proponents argued that without the variance, the lights could still be installed. The extra height would allow lights to be angled in a way that was focused on the players and less invasive for neighbors. The ZBA approved both variances.

That April, again over neighbor objections, Town Meeting approved paying for the projects using Community Preservation Act funds. But after that, the project somehow stalled.

Three years later, Recreation sought the Planning Board’s approval of the project. What they initially assumed was a simple process turned into a longer, more complicated one. When Little League publicly criticized the Board and called for a quicker approval, the Board defended its handling of the hearings. The site plans were approved in December of 2020.

The bids for work were issued in February 2021 and awarded in March. Initially Recreation discussed the need to chip in about $12K in funds from their Revolving Fund to cover extra costs not estimated for the Richardson project for “additional trenching and electrical work to bring in the electricity to the courts”. Ultimately, Friends of Southborough Recreation were able to raise and donate over $12,500.*

Early that summer, Rec appeared to believe projects were on track to be completed before the fall.

Minutes show that there were multiple issues along the way with contractors, equipment backorder, payment process issues, and another cost overrun for Richardson, etc. The biggest issue for Mooney appeared to be National Grid giving them the runaround since last summer. For Richardson, project managers for the contractor that kept changing was another complication.

The projects were finally completed this spring. By that time, the little leagers were no longer part of “Southborough Youth Baseball”. Over the last year, the program merged with Northborough. They are now playing under the Algonquin Baseball banner.

At the May 31st Select Board meeting, members shared the news. They marveled at Mooney lights they observed as lighting up just the field and not the neighborhood.

*Updated (6/10/22 7:50 am): According to Rec Director Tim Davis, and a comment by Jolene Chapski, Friends of Southborough Recreation donated over $12.5K to make the Richardson Court lights possible.

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Jolene Chapski
9 months ago

I think it is important to note that although not mentioned, the Friends of Southborough Recreation supported the lights at the Neary Tennis Courts when they met with unexpected issues with National Grid. The Friends donated over $12,500 to this cause.

For those unfamiliar with us, The Friends of Southborough Recreation is a non-profit 501c3 organization whose mission is to support recreational activities for the children, youth and families of Southborough. Our only fundraiser each year is the annual Thanksgiving morning Gobble Wobble. Through activities like this we are able to support important initiatives within the Recreation Department.

If anyone is interested in joining the Friends, we are always looking for new members. You can reach us at Recfriends@yahoo.com

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