After last week’s loss at the Rochester polls, the members of the Tri-Town Unified Recreational Facilities (TURF) is ready to re-organize, re-energize, and re-focus their efforts and energies to get what they believe the students attending Old Rochester Regional Junior and Senior High Schools critically need – safe, clean, fully-functional illuminated athletic fields, track, and auditorium lighting.
Tom Flynn, president of the TURF group, lead the discussion, saying, “The purpose of tonight’s meeting is not to express frustration with the past, but to move forward. … We can’t go back.”
With that, for a little over an hour, a wide range of topics were brought up by the approximately 60 people who attended the July 16 meeting held in the ORR High School library.
Attendees asked questions about the funding process which had failed to receive sufficient votes to move forward into a 15-year bond for $2 million – the sum being sought to replace the football field with artificial turf, repair the track, and to replace aged lighting in the high school auditorium.
Flynn explained that seven separate votes had been required and all needed to pass to move the funding request further: one school committee vote, three affirmative votes at three town meetings, and three majority votes at town elections.
The final piece failed when Rochester voters did not pass the question in their July elections after both Marion and Mattapoisett did.
But it was clear that TURF had heard the three towns when they asked for a capital plan moving forward.
ORR School Committee member Tina Rood said that the committee had not crafted capital plans, believing that doing so drew attention and monies away from classroom needs. However, she now appreciated that such a plan was necessary and was eager to engage in those discussions.
Superintendent Doug White said that the regional district agreement between the three towns was currently under review, and that capital needs would be woven into the fabric of any changes a new agreement might contain. He said that local schools do have capital plans, but that the district did not historically have one.
The late former school business administrator, Patrick Spencer, had developed such a plan, but the towns’ position was that the document had not been provided to them for consideration. That plan has subsequently been sent to the towns’ respective capital plan committees, Flynn said.
While there were moments when people wanted to return to the “why” the Rochester vote had failed versus how to revamp the process, Flynn, while having empathy, didn’t want to get mired in reflection.
Flynn shared the costs associated with the artificial turf, a little over a million dollars, as well as yearly maintenance, about $5,000. He also said that while grass fields were less expensive to install, the school would need three natural fields and those maintenance costs were much higher.
There was discussion about best ways to reach out to everyone in the three communities, as well as how private funding and grants might be pursued.
Flynn asked all to check the TURF website for updates and invited people to stay involved. Further meetings would be scheduled soon to continue discussion and develop action plans.
“Clearly, most of the people believe in this,” he said.
To learn more, visit www.orrturf.com.
By Marilou Newell