On Tuesday, we as a community have a big decision to make. Do we vote YES to the Multi-Purpose Athletic Fields Referendum? I hope after you read this, you will have a clearer understanding of all the hard work put in by the town, the Board of Education and those both for and against this proposal. It has truly been a community effort.
FACT: The current field conditions at our two high schools are far below the normal standard for a high school in 2013. On that, we can all agree.
Let me start by dispelling a big myth: The youth sports organizations are NOT the brainchild of this project. This is NOT up for referendum so the youth sports organizations have more fields to play on. We want these fields for our high school students and athletes. Having these multi-use fields at both our high schools will mean that we no longer need to spend money on busing the high school teams to the town fields, in return, allowing more time on the town fields for the youth organizations. So, please, do not be scared into believing that the youth organizations are going to be on these fields 24/7 with the lights on – it’s simply not true.
This all started over a year ago as a discussion between some concerned residents.
We have been trying for many years to get something done to our high school fields. However, with budget cuts, 2 percent caps, failed BOE budgets of past, and the board's need to keep up with the inside maintenance of all 15 of our 35+ year-old schools, we realized that nothing will ever be able to get done—the improvements are just too complex to include in the boards’ annual budget.
So, we tried another route. We went to the town with a plan. After many months of debate it was decided the BOE would not take the town’s offer and it would come up with its own plan and maintain control of the fields. This was, in part, due to the will of a vocal group of concerned citizens who took the time and energy and fought for what they believed was in the best interest of the community. I cannot say that I disagree with the outcome.
It was back to square one for those of us who still wanted to see our fields improved.
In the meantime, we endured another fall sports season with horrific fields; another graduation ceremony on dirt, rocks, and mud with no ADA compliance for those with disabilities, no easy accessibility for all the grandparents who want to see their grandkids play a game or graduate, another year of rusty fences, and pitted tracks. We regrouped and decided to continue with our message to the BOE and we fought to ensure that the BOE would follow through on their promise to come up with a solution in a timely fashion. Here we are, 13 long months later, with a complete plan on the table to fix these fields, the right way, with the voting public making the final decision.
When you enter the voting booth on Tuesday, please try and keep in mind all that has been done to get to where we are today. Don’t be lead to believe that anyone has taken this lightly. Don’t be lead to believe that due diligence was not done. There has been over a year of talking and planning. There has been over a year of the public having an opportunity to speak for or against the plan. We can continue this process for another 5 years and still never all agree on how to get it done. There comes a time when a decision needs to be made, a plan needs to be put in place, and we move forward.
That time has finally come thanks to the hard work of all of us. We have an opportunity to finally get the job done. I will be voting YES. I hope you will be joining me.