The money represents half of what’s needed – the other half is coming from the town
The School Committee voted 5-0 to approve spending up to $390,000 toward replacement of the artificial turf field at the high school at a meeting earlier this month. That is half the anticipated cost of the replacement; the Town Council had already voted to pay the other half.
The approval is contingent on the Town Council’s approval of a memorandum of agreement with the School Committee outlining responsibilities for field maintenance costs going forward. The School Committee also voted 5-0 to approve the MOA.
“This is not coming from a lack of trust but from a fiduciary hat,” said School Committee Chair Anne Musella, referring to the committee’s approval vote being contingent on the Town Council approval of the artificial turf field MOA.
The money to cover the district’s half of the turf replacement will come out of the district’s fund balance (surplus), which stands at approximately $3.4 million right now.
Regarding the MOA, Musella said, “I’m very pleased we’re able to come together and to clarify the nature of the ownership of the turf.”
She noted the MOA was for the artificial turf field only. “We’re looking to have a similar MOA in place within six months for all the shared town fields.”
Part of the MOA is that the school district will pay 60 percent of the maintenance cost of the artificial turf field starting in 2024, but that 60 percent will be included in the town’s appropriation to the district so that there’s a clearer picture of the district’s actual costs. For the past many years, the town has provided for the maintenance of the field and other school-town fields, resulting in the cost not being reflected in the school’s budget. You can read the entire MOA HERE.
The MOA will be on the Town Council’s agenda May 23, according to Town Manager Andy Nota. He noted the turf replacement – funding for which the council approved in advance of knowing how the School Committee would proceed – will begin the week of June 6. First the current turf “carpet” will be removed, the subsurface prepared and the drainage upgraded. The new “carpet” should be installed sometime in mid-July, so the field will be ready for the fall season.
Committee members Alyson Powell and Will Hangan were absent from the May 3 School Committee meeting. The School Committee’s next meeting is a joint session with the Town Council Monday, May 16.