Is The Current Fields Proposal The Only Approach?

Lynnfield resident Katy Shea expresses some reservations about the warrant article for the next step in the fields project that will come up at tonight's town meeting.

The following was provided by Katy Shea of Lynnfield regarding the warrant article for the athletic fields committee that will come up Monday night at town meeting. 

Dear Lynnfield Residents, 

I would like to thank our Fields Committee for their time and commitment to improving our playing fields.  Like many of you, I agree that our children need better playing fields; but I am not convinced that using school property is the only approach.

Some facts:

-          Up to $400,000 Massachusetts PARC grants are available to cities and towns that are improving or creating athletic fields for their communities. Therefore, many cities and towns have turf fields that are dedicated and deeded for park and recreation purposes only. To qualify for these grants, land must be dedicated to park and recreation purposes and not under the care and control of the School Committee. 

For example, when North Reading upgraded their athletic field on school property to turf, the School Committee turned the land over to the Parks and Recreation Department.   This positioned the field to qualify for PARC state grant funding, up to $400,000.  (These grants can be obtained for new and renovated fields.)

-          The life expectancy of a turf field is estimated to be 10-15 years, after which at the very least, the playing surface should be replaced for an estimated $300,000 per field. Based upon the projected heavy usage from youth, high school and several adult organizations that currently use the fields, we can anticipate an estimated useful life of 10 years for our 4 turf fields (Please keep in mind, the larger more aggressive athletes, combined with weather conditions will adversely impact the best case estimate of a 15 year replacement of turf fields)

The town will take out a 20 year bond at $3.94M to build the proposed turf fields.  For budgetary purposes, we will assume the four turf fields will be replaced twice during the life of the loan.  During the 20 year bond payment schedule, field replacement costs may be $2.4M.  Presently, the taxpayers of Lynnfield will bear that cost of the turf replacement because we cannot qualify for state grants. 

As we all know, a Capital Planning Committee is being formed to review the potential of a new police station and library. Based on Lynnfield Finance Committee Meeting minutes dated February 19, 2013, Reedy Meadow will be considered as a possible site for these new buildings.   Would it benefit us to have a few grass athletic fields at Reedy Meadow?  Would it help to keep our costs down?  Should we have the High School and Middle School fields dedicated to park and recreation purposes, to help us qualify for existing state grants?  As we move forward, to improve our athletic fields, I hope these questions are considered.  Meeting our fields and capital improvement projects will be of great interest to Lynnfield’s taxpayers.

muriel cecere October 21, 2013 at 10:49 AM
Excellent article by Katy Shea re; Fields Projects, makes you wonder why Town Officials have not discovered this information and acted on it.
Sydney October 21, 2013 at 01:30 PM
Thank you Katy Shea! It's very important that we be fiscally responsible. I too am not against facilities for our youth but, we must explore sensible ways of providing them. Flashy new fields, turf surfaces, or even flashy new School superintendent is often not the right thing ... Just because you spend a lot does not mean you get a lot (value for the dollar). Let's do the right thing
Mister October 21, 2013 at 01:56 PM
I'm not sure if I'd classify turf fields as "flashy" Sydney. You can argue that spending money on fields may not be something you're in favor of. Considering that Andover, , Beverly, Reading, Wakefield, Wilmington, North Reading, Revere, Woburn, Salem, Marblehead, and soon Peabody all have High School fields on turf I wouldn't say it was "flashy" at all. Necessary maybe.
Bob Priestley October 21, 2013 at 03:29 PM
Katy, as a member of the field committee, I am glad you are in support of better playing fields as this proposal will take care of that. Further, thanks for the due diligence in discovering this grant as we have found it as well. I think this grant suggestion is great and if Lynnfield can meet the qualifications, will be part of the overall financing plan for the project and outlined in detail for the April Town Meeting. Maybe you could help us in securing this grant. Thanks again Katy and I hope, as a supporter of better playing fields, we can count on your support tonight.


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