Sunday, May 29, 2016

Medway: Concession stand operation out to bid

Medway: Concession stand operation out to bid

MEDWAY - The operation and profit of a concession stand will be put out to bid after the operation of the building was transferred to a youth football organization.
The building, also known as the Coakley Building, was formerly run by the Friends of Medway Athletics, a local booster organization that would divide the profit made from concessions to local groups based on how much time they worked in the stand.
That decision, according to Parks Commissioner Sean Murphy, was made last spring.
A March 2015 agreement signed between the School Committee and Board of Selectmen gives the Parks Commission authority over operations, maintenance and scheduling of three (two recently built) artificial turf fields at the high school.
Murphy said the commission, along with the Board of Selectmen, wanted more control over the concession stand “to know what it made.”
Instead, a youth football group now runs the stand and operates largely in the same way as the Friends of Medway Athletics, but the group keeps 35 percent of net profits after another 35 percent goes to costs, meaning other groups that work the stand at events receive less than before.
Friends of Medway Athletics, however, would not keep any of the profit.
Murphy said the youth football group was previously using a grass field at the middle school, which included a concession stand completely run by the group, but when the league made the switch to the turf fields, that extra cash was gone.
In addition, the youth football group has to pay rental fees on the turf fields.
“When they went to turf...they lost their ability to fundraise for the program,” Murphy said of the youth football group.
Murphy said the park commission’s goal is to raise enough money each year, about $150,000, to put into a stabilization account to replace the turf on the fields in 10 years.
After concerns were raised from Friends of Medway Athletics and Medway Gridiron Club (a high school booster organization) at meeting last week, the commission decided to put the issue out to bid.
Groups will be able to submit competitive bids for the opportunity to run the concession stand.
Friends of Medway Athletics treasurer Patty MacDonald said the group plans on submitting a bid.
Julie Dennehy, on behalf of the Gridiron Club, said the club had its questions on “operational changes” answered at last week’s meeting.
Zachary Comeau can be reached at 508-634-7556 and Follow him on Twitter @ZComeau_MDN.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Medway Finance Committee postpones vote on turf moratorium

By Zachary Comeau

May 25. 2016 9:55PM

Medway Finance Committee postpones vote on turf moratorium

MEDWAY - The overwhelming majority of residents that spoke at Wednesday’s Finance Committee meeting urged the favorable recommendation at Special Town Meeting of a proposed citizen’s petition for a three-year moratorium on crumb rubber turf fields and surfaces.
Crumb rubber, essentially tiny pieces of ground-up tire that acts as dirt on artificial turf fields and some playgrounds, has not been officially proposed as part of the project, but a citizen petition gathered more than 200 signatures for the article, which is set for a June 9 vote.
But due to liability issues that remain unclear, the Finance Committee left their recommendation as “to be determined” for the petition. The committee did the same for an article seeking to spend $450,000 for design and engineering costs for a comprehensive project to renovate parks and recreational areas.
Concerns have been raised about the long-term health effects of crumb rubber, and three federal agencies have started a study to determine just that.
Former Board of Health member Jordan Warnick, a retired professor of medical research and associate dean at University of Maryland, has been vocal about the need for a closer look at the material before it’s deemed safe.
“If I had my way … and money wasn’t a problem, I’d rip them up,” he said.
Some committee members, including Jeff O’Neill, said the moratorium’s approval could open the town up to liability issues.
He called it an “unintended consequence” and a “financial concern.”
The moratorium, O’Neill said, would allow someone to bring suit to the town because it “identified in an article that it’s against crumb rubber.”
Finance Committee Chairman Frank Rossi, however, said Town Counsel Barbara St. Andre has not answered the committee’s question: are there liability issues with the moratorium?
The committee last week met to discuss the proposed article and suggested an amendment: a moratorium on all fields and surfaces.
But on Wednesday, resident Adam Houser said a motion to amend an article on Town Meeting floor can only narrow an article, not broaden the scope of an article.
Moratorium supporters also said they want the article to mirror what the federal agencies said and specifically mention crumb rubber.
Both the Finance Committee and residents said there may be motions to amend the article on Town Meeting floor, but exactly what those motions will be is unclear.
Selectman Glenn Trindade, a major proponent of 2014 project to build and renovate turf fields at the high school, was the only one – other than Finance Committee members - to speak on Wednesday in opposition to the article.
Trindade, who said he was speaking as just a resident and not a selectman, called the discussion an “extraordinary argument.”
“We cannot operate in a world where opinion on something drives policy,” he said.
He said the federal agencies were not alarmed enough to suggest removing crumb rubber fields altogether and are not expediting the study.
Further, he said the town has no plans to build turf fields as part of any project.
At the end of his comments, Trindade said that as a selectman, he will be voting to support the article for the design funds as written. He also urged the Finance Committee to recommend dismissal of the moratorium.
This sparked some residents to question whether Trindade was speaking as a selectman or resident.
After the meeting, Trindade called a Daily News reporter and said the group behind the petition really just “wants those fields gone.”
“Instead of coming up with a moratorium on something we weren’t going to do anyway, they should come out and say, ‘We don’t believe these fields are safe and we want them ripped up.’”
Zachary Comeau can be reached at 508-634-7556 and Follow him on Twitter @ZComeau_MDN.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

NEWS: Littleton voters say yes to Alumni Field

By Alexander Silva

May 03. 2016 3:21PM

Littleton voters say yes to Alumni Field

The Littleton annual and special Town Meeting was packed, May 2, to the point where people had to sit on the floor. Wicked Local Photo/Alexander Silva After more than an hour of debate, voters at special Town Meeting appropriated funds for the renovation design of Alumni Field on Russell Street, but not without some restrictions.
Voters at annual Town Meeting, also approved a three-year moratorium on the use of crumb rubber infill for synthetic turf on town-owned land, forbidding the use of scrap tires and restricting the amount of maximum allowable lead content.
“This facility, folks, is inadequate for what we do,” Selectman Chuck DeCoste said. “And the fact that we have been able to be successful is a testament to our kids, to the parents, to the athletic director, the coaches, the Highway Department – for anybody that has anything to do with our sports programs succeeding.”
The votes passed by wide margins at the two back-to-back meetings, during which articles were taken out of order to deal with the field issue. The amended Alumni Field renovation design item passed, receiving 380 votes in favor and 165 votes opposed.
The amended moratorium article passed, receiving 275 votes in favor and 186 votes opposed.
Over 500 people packed into the Charles Kaye Gymnasium at Littleton Middle School for the annual and special Town Meetings, overflowing the bleachers to the point where people had to sit on the floor.
“Alumni Field in its current state cannot support the interscholastic sports program in a manner that we need it to,” School Committee Chairman Mike Fontanella said.
Alumni Field and the moratorium
A variety of amendments were proposed for both the Alumni Field renovation design item and resident Julie Rupp’s crumb rubber infill moratorium voter petition.
Each item had one amendment successfully passed.
The $234,593 Alumni Field design appropriation was amended to include wording requiring the design committee to consider both natural and synthetic turf options.
The moratorium wording was changed from saying “no lead” would be allowed in crumb rubber infill to a maximum lead content that’s “less than or equal to 50 parts-per-million,” which is the maximum allowable lead content for synthetic turf surfaces in California.
The restriction of no scrap tires contained in the infill was untouched.
“It’s almost sounds like it’s a trust thing, if things aren’t written in writing, no one believes things are going to happen,” resident Stephen Poulin said. “We’re a small town. Let’s work together, people, and get this done.”
Field maintenance in town
The Finance Committee and a number of citizens expressed concern over the lack of a maintenance plan to care for the town’s existing fields.
“As a Finance Committee, we’re always looking at long-term things,” Finance Committee Chairman Betsy Bohling said. “We want to make sure we can invest all this money, but we have to maintain it, what’s it going to cost, is there a commitment there to do that.”
Currently the Park and Recreation Department, School Committee and Highway Department have an agreement for maintenance of existing fields.
The Highway Department has two full-time employees that do park maintenance in addition to one or two seasonal summer workers dedicated to park maintenance from late May through the third week in August, according to Highway Operations Manager Jim Clyde.
But based on a department evaluation by the Collins Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Littleton should have even more employees taking care of its fields, Clyde said.
The industry standard is one employee for every 8 to 10 acres of developed parkland and the town has about 62 acres scattered around, according to Clyde.
Some residents questioned why the town would renovate Alumni Field with no maintenance plan in place.
“Unless we really have an idea of what is going to be included in this, it makes it difficult to say… take the money, just design something,” resident Harvey Atkins said. “It almost seems like you’re putting the cart before the horse.”
However, DeCoste said that any maintenance plan would come after design work is done.
“Maintenance is part of the execution,” DeCoste said. “This is part of the design.”
Follow reporter Alexander Silva on Twitter @IndieEagleWL.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

NEWS: Medway Selectmen set turf moratorium vote

By Zachary Comeau

May 02. 2016 9:21PM

Medway Selectmen set turf moratorium vote

MEDWAY - Voters will decide on June 9 whether to adopt a three-year moratorium on artificial turf fields that use crumb rubber infill due to a resident petition that gathered enough signatures to call a Special Town Meeting.
The date was set at the Board of Selectmen’s Monday meeting after a length conversation about the timing of the petition – just as town officials have started planning the improvement of several parks and recreational areas in town.
Selectmen were seeking the approval of the $450,000 for design and engineering costs at the May 9 Annual Town Meeting, but the board and Town Administrator Michael Boynton discussed – and debated – holding off on the project before the town knows what materials it can use.
Crumb rubber, essentially tiny pieces of ground-up tire that acts as dirt on artificial turf fields and some playgrounds, has not been officially proposed as part of the project, but selectmen on Monday acknowledged that there is a possibility the material could be used on playgrounds once upgraded.
The project, which needs Community Preservation Committee support, seeks to improve areas at Choate Park, Oakland Park, Cassidy Fields and the middle school. Funding would come from Community Preservation Act funds as well as the Open Space Bond Bill via the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Boynton suggested doing just that before the town starts a “design process with someone that might specialize in that type of project.”
Two residents, Liam McDermott and Alan White, both suggested holding off on the project or proposed using a different material until after the moratorium vote, after the results of the federal study involving three government agencies.
Selectman Glenn Trindade said the particular surface discussed would replace wood chips on playgrounds and provide increased accessibility for handicapped people. The material, he said, is encapsulated in another material, thus keeping children safe from crumb rubber.
Trindade, after exchanges between the board and the residents, said the “biggest thing for (him)” is ensuring playgrounds are accessible to handicapped parents.
“Maybe I’m the only one that cares enough about this,” he said.
Selectman Dennis Crowley suggested moving the Annual Town Meeting article asking for the $450,000 design costs to the June 9 warrant to take care of both articles simultaneously.
He said the town could waste funds on an alternative material that’s more costly and more labor-intensive to maintain if the federal study deems crumb rubber safe, and Trindade agreed.
“If they come back and the indications are there’s no problem, we’ve been stuck on this for three years for nothing,” Trindade said.
Zachary Comeau can be reached at 508-634-7556 and Follow him on Twitter @ZComeau_MDN.