While the school department’s support of a community turf field in Foxborough has been overwhelming the same cannot be said for the town’s Board of Selectmen.
On Nov. 20, selectmen were split in their support of Article 6 of the Dec. 11 Special Town Meeting Warrant, voting 2-2. Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis recused himself from the table because he is the chair of the Turf’s Up committee, a community group that has spent the last four years trying to bring a turf field to Foxborough.
Selectmen Lynda Walsh and Mark Sullivan expressed support of the turf field project at the Nov. 20 meeting.
“This started out as a community project and folks really got behind it and supported it as much as they could,” Walsh said. “$60,000 is a lot to raise in the short period of time they had to do it. I think the community does support this. I’m thrilled that we can come up with the money and only have to ask to transfer $125,000 at Town Meeting.”
Foxborough’s School Committee voted 3-0 at its Nov. 19 meeting to use $75,000 from one of its revolving accounts for the turf field project. Couple that money with the $1 million remaining in the high school renovation project and the roughly $430,000 secured by grants, donations and in-kind services and the remaining balance needed for Phase I of the project is $125,000.
Foxborough’s Chief Financial Officer Randy Scollins says the community will be asked at the Dec. 11 Town Meeting to support the project and transfer the $125,000 from an overlay surplus account.
“The fundraising these [Turf’s Up] folks have done, the work they’ve put into it … the school department is behind them and I will be supporting this project,” Walsh said.
Walsh added while she was not a “huge jock” in school she lives and breathes Foxborough pride and believes this is an important asset for the community and its young athletes.
Sullivan agreed with Walsh that this project is an asset to the community.
“I think [a turf field] has been a long time coming,” Sullivan said. … We may be a town that is fiscally conservative but it is time to catch up a little bit … I think the town will support this. The children of this town deserve a little bit better than what they have now.”
While two selectmen voiced support of the project, two selectmen were less forthcoming and ultimately voted against supporting Article 6 heading into Town Meeting.
Selectmen Lorraine Brue and Virginia Coppola each expressed concerns before ultimately voting not to support the warrant article.
Coppola said while she understands the desire to have a turf field in town she is having “a real hard time” understanding why it has to be at the high school and not at the Ahern and whether this project is a priority for the town.
“One of the questions from the Advisory Committee was is this a need or a want?” Coppola said. “That’s a good question. Do we need a field or do we want a field? Specifically, do we need a field at the high school or do we want a field at the high school? In my mind it is a lot more expensive to the taxpayers if we put it at the high school rather than at the Ahern Middle School.”
Foxborough Schools Business Manager William Yukna refuted Coppola’s statement.
“If field is built at Ahern you are looking at about $1 million proposition just to build the field,” said Yukna. “We have about $250,000 in grants and fundraising. We have to come up with $750,000. Where’s that coming from?”
Yukna further explained the money wouldn’t be coming from the high school surplus because the Ahern field is not on high school property.
Another concern for Coppola is spending now on a turf field when there are other projects on the horizon.
“You just wonder in these economic times … we are not going to be getting the state aid that we have been having in the past … the money isn’t there,” Coppola said. “Plus, [the school department] has other properties to address. [They] have the Burrell School, I’m hearing Taylor School needs things. Those are things coming up.”
Foxborough Schools Superintendent Debra Spinelli, who was present at the Nov. 20 meeting, stressed that this is a community project that has been generously supported by the school department and not a project initiated by the school department.
“Let’s say there was never a Turf’s Up committee for the past four years and [the school department] suddenly thought about this,” Spinelli said. “It would not be going to Town Meeting now because there’s a number of things we would have to go over as part of the budget schedule. … The location [at the high school] has been chosen by Turf’s Up – the schools had nothing to do with that.”
Spinelli added the school department supported the project presented by Turf’s Up because it has a “real need for an on-site facility” at the high school but that doesn’t mean it will be a school field.
“It’s a community-based project that was asked to be supported by the school department because of the timing of the NFL grant,” Spinelli said of the $250,000 grant secured by Turf’s Up that expires in May if no action is taken on the project. “The community has been trying to construct this project for four years [and] the school department is one group of several that will be using the project.”
Similar to Coppola, Brue’s hesitation to support the turf field project is a result of the town’s other priorities.
“We don’t know how much the town’s priorities (Town Hall, Burrell, Taylor and turf field) are going to cost the community,” Brue said. “We don’t know that right now and that’s my concern about supporting it the way it is laid out.”
Regardless of the board’s concerns or support of the project, Spinelli said Article 6 is a joint effort between the school department and the community that was initiated by Turf’s Up and voters at Town Meeting will get decide if it is something they want to have in town.
“It’s a mutual interest for the entire town,” said Spinelli.
“We are not the ones making the judgment here, we are giving the community the offer,” he said.
Town Meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11 inside the auditorium of Foxborough High School.
Editor's note: Patch will take a closer look this week at how the project currently stands and how it will be financed.
For more coverage on the turf field project, view the following articles:
- School Committee to Sponsor Warrant Article for Foxborough’s Turf Field Project
- Foxborough School Committee Clarifies Position on Turf Field Project
- BLOG: 'Turf's Up' and Surprise ... So Are Our Taxes!