Effort to save 9/11 Field in Southborough, MA

By Brad Petrishen Wicked Local Southborough

SOUTHBOROUGH, MA – Closing 9/11 Memorial Field would be a blow to the community that can be avoided, Advisory Committee member Jim Hegarty said Monday.

“I’m confident we can save the field,” said Hegarty, who will argue his point tonight at a meeting of the Recreation Commission.

The commission in November recommended the town close the turf field by the end of 2014. Installed in 2002, the turf is in need of costly replacement, and the commission said demand wasn’t strong enough to justify borrowing the more than $500,000 a new turf would cost.

The news came as a blow to residents who worked for years to create the field and who say closing it would be a disservice to those to whom it is dedicated.

The field is located on state-owned land, and was built with a $200,000 grant and with the help of a slew of local businesses and contractors.

Hegarty said Monday he believes he’s come up with a plan to allow the town to borrow money for the field without costing taxpayers.

Hegarty said he crunched numbers with town officials and determined that, if the town raised the user fees it charges by between $20 and $30 an hour, it would be able to take out a 15-year-loan for a new turf at “zero” cost to taxpayers.

While members of the Recreation Commission said last fall they feared other turf fields in the area would swallow up users, Hegarty said he doesn’t believe that’s the case. He said many field users didn’t fully understand the predicament losing 9/11 Field would place them in, and erroneously believed there would be enough room elswhere in town.

Hegarty said after speaking with users in detail, they said they’d rather have the field up its prices than lose it altogether. He noted that, even with price increases, the field would still cost between $20 and $85 less per hour than some other area turfs.

Hegarty said he believes the town, with the help of local politicians, can also help solve another problem that has frustrated the Recreation Commission. The state has only agreed to lease the town the land at five-year-intervals, Hegarty said, which has complicated the idea of a long-term loan.

But Hegarty said the state recently entered into a 20-year lease in Watertown for a similar property – a precedent he believes works in the town’s favor.

“I think that changes the ballgame,” Hegarty said, adding state Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, has said she would lobby on the town’s behalf.

Hegarty plans to pitch his ideas – which have taken the form of a citizen’s petition warrant article for Town Meeting – to the Recreation Commission tonight [April 1, 2014].

Hegarty said the Advisory Committee unanimously supported sponsoring the article, but was told by selectmen that a citizen’s petition would be more appropriate.

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