Hadley panel recommends $1.55M in work on Hopkins athletic fields

  • Action from a baseball game at Hopkins Academy. The town’s Community Preservation Committee recently approved a $1.55 million rehabilitation of the athletic fields at the school. Gazette file photo

Staff Writer
Published: 9/30/2022 11:12:57 AM

HADLEY — A $1.55 million rehabilitation of the athletic fields at Hopkins Academy, including installation of new scoreboards and extension of a walking path for public use, is being recommended to voters at fall Town Meeting.

The Community Preservation Act Committee endorsed a plan this week for the second phase of the work on the playing fields, part of a $12.3 million capital improvement plan being undertaken by the town’s public schools.

CPA Committee member Mark Dunn said he supports the project because he wants to invest in students and build community while coming out of the pandemic.

The work will include a new girls softball field, rearranging the boys varsity baseball field and putting in the scoreboards at the Route 9 site. It follows an earlier project that doubled the size of the athletic fields for both game use and practices.

The committee’s 4-0 vote, with two abstentions, calls for $750,000 of the project to be bonded, with the remainder 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 matched by a state contribution.

If approved by voters next month, the bonding decision means that portion of the project will be paid back over a number of years. Because it will be borrowing, approval will require a two-thirds vote in favor, rather than a simple majority.

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

A proposal seeking nearly $100,000 to restore a tobacco barn on Mount Warner Road was withdrawn by its applicant before the meeting, said Committee Chairwoman Mary Thayer.

The CPA Committee supported all aspects of the athletic fields, except for a nearly $65,000 concrete pad that would have served as the base for a new concession stand. Only the scoreboards at $100,000 raised concerns from some members, though they are considered eligible under state CPA guidelines.

School Committee member Paul Phifer said the scoreboards will give a more professional appearance to the fields. Thayer said she agreed that they would elevate the appearance of the site.

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

The committee supported the bonding as a way to preserve money in the CPA account.

“We could do this without bonding, but it does limit our flexibility, perhaps,” Thayer said.

The committee is aware that money may be sought for repairing the Russell School building, or for a larger scale project at that site.

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

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