Votes Scheduled For Athletic Complex, Town Charter Proposals
Two emotional issues will finally go before the voters this spring.
(Editor's note: When this article was first published, the estimated cost of the field project was misreported because of a reporting error. It has been corrected.)
Two issues that have generated emotional reactions from residents over the past several months will finally go before the voters for a final decision this spring.
At their meeting Tuesday night (Feb. 28), the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a request by the Friends Of the Tewksbury Community Athletic Complex (FOTCAC) to place a $1.935 million debt exclusion on the Municipal Election Ballot on April 14. That money would be used to fund construction of an athletic facility larger and more elaborate than the one presently planned for the new high school.
In addition, selectmen voted unanimously to schedule a Special Town Meeting for Tuesday, May 8. The only article on the warrant for that meeting will be the proposal to adopt the changes to the Town Charter proposed by the Special Act Charter Committee. The proposed change generating the most reaction has been eliminating Open Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen and replacing them with a nine-member Town Council.
Brian Dick, a member of the School Committee and the FOTCAC, made the presentation before the selectmen and said the request for the debt exclusion was made so that the project could be started and dovetail with the new high school project.
"We're not stopping our fund-raising efforts. We're not stopping our quest for grants," said Dick, after the meeting. One of the grants the group has applied for is the Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities Grant, which could net as much as $500,000, according to Dick.
To date, the group has raised over $50,000 and last summer, it announced a corporate partnership with TD Bank, which has pledged at least $7.500 per year.
The group's proposal has called for a 1,500-seat stadium (rather than 800), with artificial turf, lights for night games and an adjacent set of tennis courts.
During his presentation to the committee, Dick said the group was flexible and willing to work with the Planning Board on any changes to the proposal that board might feel were needed. One of those changes would be to reduce the number of seats to 1,000.
"People keep thinking this is about the artificial turf, it isn't," said Dick, after the meeting. "It's more about the tennis courts and a complex that can be used by all the teams and by the community."
The field lighting was part of the FOTCAC's original proposal but was then removed, after abutters had voiced concerns. Now it's back, Dick said, because several donors had said they would not support the project if lights were not included.
If approved, the construction of the athletic complex would be part of Phase 2 of the high school project, targeted for completion in August, 2013.
If the debt exclusion is approved by voters in April, it would still need to be approved at the Annual Town Meeting on May 9.
Town Meeting Week promises to be very busy for Tewksbury voters. The Annual Town Meeting has been scheduled for Monday, May 7 and Wednesday, May 9.
The first day of the meeting is traditionally dedicated, almost exclusively, to the budget. The second day also includes a Special Town Meeting to deal, primarily, with housekeeping items from the current fiscal year.
The proposals put forth by the Special Act Charter Committee is expected to generate lengthy debate among Town Meeting participants. With that in mind, the Board of Selectmen felt is was appropriate to take the unusual step of giving the article it's own Special Town Meeting and it's own night.
Selectman Scott Wilson, chairman of the SACC, said his committee did not plan to make any additional changes to the proposal between now and the Special Town Meeting.
Selectman David Gay said he agreed with allowing voters to decide on the proposal and agreed that it should be given its own night during Town Meeting Week. However, he also took the opportunity to once again voice his opposition to the proposal and say he would vote against it.