Up for a vote at the upcoming Town Meeting is an article that would appropriate a 15-year, $5 million bond to restore and improve the athletic fields and facilities at Wakefield Memorial High School.
The repairs would go to upgrade several fields and facilities. First on the list is Landigran field, which would include a new turf field, bleachers with a press box, a concession stand, bathrooms and team rooms. Next is Beasley Field, which would include a new turf field, a re-surfaced track, and lights. The Capital Planning Committee is also recommending replacing the WHS field house floor, replacing the Dobbins tennis courts, and resurfacing the Veterans Field tennis courts.
Except before you go reaching for your checkbook, Wakefield's Capitial Planning Committee and others within town government say they have found a way to make the repairs without costing taxpayers any more than they are already paying.
Shaun Margerison, chairman of the Capital Planning Committee, said the sale of the Franklin School, re-financing on the town's loan for the Senior Center, and the end of the town's loan for the Lucius Beebe Library all create a perfect financial climate to undertake the bond for the repairs this year.
"That all combined means that our current bond payments will remain exactly the same on a 15-year-bond," he said.
Margerison said one of the reasons for the high cost of the project is that along with updating the facilities comes regulations, such as making the bleachers and bathrooms American Disabilities Act compliant.
"If you don't touch them, they can stay, but if you re-build, you have to do that," he said.
The two grass fields would be replaced with a multi-sport turf field, which would allow for more sports to practice or play on it for more time each day, Margerison said. Margerison added that turf fields have improved a lot in just the last several years, and cost about the same to maintain as grass fields. The fields would be marked with lines for several sports, including football, soccer and lacrosse.
"If you look at Beasley come mid-August, it's just dirt," he said. "The band can't practice on it, you can’t have any soccer scrimmages, and you’re very limited, and Landrigan has limited use because of the same thing. If you have it too much, you won't be able to use it for anything but football."
Margerison also added an additional benefit of better sports facilities could mean more Chapter 70 funding, if the new facilities attract students to stay in in the public school system instead of heading to private schools.
"A larger student body can account for a little bit more funding," he said, noting he didn't know any exact figures, just the general Chapter 70 funding formula. "It may be a dollar, but a dollar is a dollar," he said. "Say five kids stay, it may be enough to tip the scale."
Are you in favor of - or against - the repairs? Vote in the poll and share your thoughts in the comments.