Just six months after a crushing defeat at the Municipal Election in April, advocates of community sports and Tewksbury High are celebrating a significant pair of victories.
Voters at Tuesday's Special Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved use of $375,000 in Community Preservation Funds to build a five-court tennis complex at the new Tewksbury High School. In addition, voters approved spending $750,000 to put down an artificial turf, multi-sport surface on the new athletic field being built at the high school.
Some residents questioned the use of CPA funds for tennis courts. Community Preservation Committee Chairwoman Nancy Reed that while the primary purposes of the CPA was to develop affordable housing and to preserve historical resources, there has always been a provision in the CPA for open space acquisition, including recreational facilities.
"This particular use really dovetails the values of the CPA," said Reed. "There will be community use and then to have it tied to the new high school. It will benefit children, students and adults."
There was greater debate about the $750,000 to be used for the artificial turf field. Town Manger Richard Montuori explained that the town had no intention of spending that much money on the field. He said the spending article was a requirement of the state in order for the town to apply for a PARC Grant of up to $400,000 to help pay for the project. Two proposed amendments that would have changed the language of the article were both shot down after Montuori said any changes would endanger the town's chances of landing the grant.
"This is not the normal way (an article) would be written but it's what the state wanted," said Montuori.
Montuori also pointed out that in the language of the article, the town would not be obligated to spend any money unless the grant were awarded. He said that depending on how big the grant was, the remaining cost of the field installation would be covered by private fundraising efforts, as well as a credit from the contractor since the planned grass field would no longer be put in. Montuori said if there was any leftover cost, town meeting voters would be asked to pay for it out of the stabilization account.
Among those speaking in favor of the article were School Board Chairwoman Krissy Polimeno and state Rep. Jim Miceli, D-Wilmington, who was allowed to speak as a visitor.
Polimeno said the key element to the proposal was that taxes would not be raised to pay for it.
"We heard you loud and clear," she said. "We heard you say you didn’t want this on the tax base. We’ve been working diligently on this for the past seven months. If we don’t take advantage of this (grant) opportunity, another community will."
Miceli said Tewksbury's entire legislative delegation was in favor of the project and was working together to make sure the town received the biggest grant possible.
The article passed by a vote of 204-36.