NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 24, 2012

Fields upgrade proves costly

Pentucket to review three proposals for outdoor facilities

WEST NEWBURY — A new Pentucket school board subcommittee has been charged with exploring three proposed upgrades to the secondary school’s athletic fields and outdoor facilities.

The group, which will include three School Committee members and three representatives from the district towns, is tasked with investigating schematic designs that were presented to the board last week by Gale Associates, Inc. of Weymouth. The group will also consider possible funding alternatives.

Voters at Town Meeting last spring earmarked $700,000 for the project, but initial estimates — ranging from $2.5 million to $3.32 million — have well exceeded that amount. School board members said they are committed to securing grants and private donations to cover the difference.

West Newbury’s Chris Wile cautioned his colleagues about “going too far” in fundraising before the committee decides in which direction the project will ultimately go.

“This is a big push, I’m not sure we’re going to get there,” said Wile, adding he expects some voters will be “shocked” to learn how much more money is needed for the project.

Wile said he was concerned that if only a portion of the additional funds were raised through donations, then the “default” position could mean going back to the district’s towns for the remainder of the cost.

Chairman Brian Page said the member towns have been assured that the district will not be asking taxpayers for any additional money for the project.

Wile also said the towns have been notified the current track and tennis courts were deemed unrepairable.

Business manager Mike Bergeron suggested that perhaps the project could be scaled back, with any unfunded portions ultimately added to a larger high school renovation project down the road that would tap state building funds.

Representatives from Gale Associates have offered three alternative schematic solutions. The scope of their objective was to develop a new track facility, reconstructed tennis courts, bleachers and more durable fields with adequate lighting. All base price estimates provided by Gale do not include funding for the proposed bleacher systems, the amenities building or the athletic lighting.

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