Athletic fields

Hadley panel recommends $1.55 million for work on Hopkins sports fields


HADLEY — A $1.55 million rehabilitation of the Hopkins Academy athletic fields, including the installation of new scoreboards and the extension of a walking path for public use, is recommended for voters during the autumn municipal meeting.

The Community Preservation Act Committee this week approved a plan for the second phase of work on the playgrounds, part of a $12.3 million capital improvement plan being undertaken by public schools in the city.

CAP committee member Mark Dunn said he supported the project because he wanted to invest in students and build community while emerging from the pandemic.

Work will include a new girls’ softball field, redevelopment of the boys’ varsity baseball field and the installation of bulletin boards at the Route 9 site. It follows an earlier project that doubled the size of the sports fields for game use and training.

The committee’s 4-0 vote, with two abstentions, calls for $750,000 of the project to be bonded, with the rest coming directly from the $3.13 million in the CPA account. The CPA fund is derived from a 3% surcharge on property tax bills, and is a state contribution.

If approved by voters next month, the bond decision means that part of the project will be paid back over several years. Because it will be borrowed, approval will require a two-thirds favorable vote, rather than a simple majority.

The only other project that will be put to voters is related to the Hockanum Cemetery, with $25,000 requested for reinforced grass at the edge of the fence, the replacement of an existing stone fence and the creation of a memorial using stones from the original fence which was built as a Works Progress Administration project in the 1930s.

A proposal asking for nearly $100,000 to restore a tobacco barn on Mount Warner Road was withdrawn by its applicant before the meeting, committee chair Mary Thayer said.

The CPA committee backed all aspects of the sports fields except for a nearly $65,000 concrete slab that would have served as the base for a new concession stand. Only $100,000 scorecards have raised concerns from some members, despite being considered eligible under state CPA guidelines.

School committee member Paul Phifer said the scoreboards will make the pitches look more professional. Thayer said she was okay with improving the look of the site.

Select Board member Joyce Chunglo also weighed in on the decision, who said football, softball and baseball players would benefit, while the asphalt path has already become a resource for residents when the school is not in session. “It’s not just a school project, it’s actually a community project,” Chunglo said.

The committee supported bonding as a means of preserving money in the CPA account.

“We could do it without a tie, but maybe that limits our flexibility,” Thayer said.

The committee is aware that funds may be requested to repair the Russell School building or for a larger scale project on this site.

Committee member Denise Barstow Manz agreed that bonding is the responsible approach for taxpayers. “We can make plans now and we can make plans later,” she said.

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