No one attending the Old Rochester Regional School Committee meeting on January 17 disagreed that the athletic fields at ORR are in need of improvement, and a facilities subcommittee that night presented its revised and downsized $2 million plan to the ORR School Committee and the public. But the School Committee will hold off on taking a vote to advance that proposal forward until the weeks just before the annual town meetings of the three towns.
ORR School Committee Chairman Carey Humphrey said that subcommittee recently met with various selectmen, town administrators, and finance committee members who urged the subcommittee to consider having the School Committee save its vote to advance the proposal until the spring so it can be forwarded as a warrant article on the annual town meeting warrants.
“We listened because we want to have a collaborative work towards a solution,” said Humphrey. “We’re not here as a group or subcommittee to try to push an agenda toward the towns, the selectmen, and town administrators that would cause problems. That’s not what were here for.”
And although not all stakeholders agree on all the aspects of the matter, Humphrey said, “… but we’re here for similar reasons.
“We walked away from that meeting feeling like we have a positive path towards getting on the warrant for the town meeting.” The subcommittee’s goal, he continued, “is to get this to town meeting so that our citizens can decide if they want to approve this, and that’s kind of where we’re at today,” Humphrey said.
During a 20-minute slide presentation, Hal Rood, an advocate for the athletics complex rehab project, broke down the project that has been reduced in scope and price, from $5 million to $2 million. Rood, an original member of the 501(C)(3) group known as T.U.R.F. (Tri-Town Unified Recreational Facilities), helped organize a group of citizens interested in studying ways to improve the athletic complex at ORR that Rood said is “over-used” and “in need of help.”
Using funds raised by T.U.R.F., the group had an engineer draft a design that included repairing the running track, two artificial turf fields, including the main field, two other full-sized grass multi-purpose fields and irrigation for those and the baseball diamond, a field house with bathrooms and concession stand, partial re-fencing of the tennis courts, irrigation and care for the softball field, LED lighting, spectator seating for the track and multi-use field, and a covered press box.
The project has been scaled down to one artificial turf field at the main stadium, lighting upgrades, a new track, and also new lighting and sound equipment for the auditorium to benefit the drama club.
According to Rood, the current state of the main field at ORR leaves student athletes at a higher risk of falls and concussions because the ground is so compacted. This also causes drainage issues, a reason why the soccer team had to play many of its games away from ORR when the field was underwater, Rood said. Artificial turf instead of grass, he said, would allow the amount of usage the field currently obliges, which is far too much for natural grass.
But the $2 million project will require approval by voters at the three towns’ annual town meeting before moving forward any further.
Breaking down the cost, Rood said if the project was financed through a 15-year loan, the average single-family size home in Mattapoisett would see an annual tax increase of about $19, about $25 in Marion, and just over $34 in Rochester.
The project cost, Rood said, includes all the “soft costs” as well as a 10% design and construction contingency. Rood added that perhaps Marion and Mattapoisett Community Preservation Act funding could be used to help fund the project.
“I was elected to represent the students and their parents,” said Humphrey. “I look at this project as – we have a great school system, we have great leadership, we have great academics, we have a great athletics director, we have champion athletics teams … we have award winning performing arts students…. I believe that as a participant of this group that this is a project that’s well worth our support.”
The next meeting of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee is scheduled for February 27 at 6:30 pm in the ORR Junior High School media room.
Old Rochester Regional School Committee
By Jean Perry