School Committee member: Here’s why alternate fields plan doesn’t work

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I am writing in response to an article in the Nov. 2, 2018 edition of the Nashoba Valley Voice entitled “Selectmen tweak wording on field plan referendum.” I have also viewed the video of that meeting and need to correct some misinformation.

In the article, and the video, (Shirley Selectman Enrico) Capucci mentions that if the December 11 debt exclusion for the high school athletic fields project were to fail, an idea of (School Committee member Jim) Quinty’s regarding a different approach to addressing the conditions of the high school fields should be reconsidered. I cannot speak for the entire School Committee, but based on prior votes, debates, and comments, I don’t see any appetite for reconsidering among my colleagues. I certainly do not have any such appetite.

The main reason is that his idea is based on a flawed premise: moving high school baseball and softball off campus. The athletic fields subcommittee of the School Committee looked at this option. It is not a new idea. Mr. Quinty appeared at the first subcommittee meeting in January 2017 and asked that this be considered. It was. Among many other problems, we were told by the parks and recreation entities in each town that there Is not a viable place to play high school baseball in either town.

Why? In high school baseball and softball, games are played simultaneously on different fields. Teams play either JV or varsity at home and send the other teams to the opponent’s fields. This is not unique to Ayer Shirley Regional High School. That is what is done at every high school in the region, if not the state.

In Shirley, the only possible place to play are the fields at Lura A. White School. However, the baseball and softball fields share an outfield, so you cannot play baseball and softball games simultaneously.

In Ayer at Pirone Park, there are evening recreation activities that limit field availability most afternoons after 5:45 p.m. Ayer Parks has said we would have to be off that field at that time.

However, many high school baseball games and some softball games are not completed by 5:45, especially when we play schools such as Murdock and Naragansett which travel a long way, so games begin late.

The Mid-Wach League and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association would not allow us to have a baseball program that would knowingly (not due to weather or darkness) end games before they were completed.

Unfortunately, Mr. Quinty, (John) O’Keefe of the Shirley Finance Committee, and Mr. Capucci continue to mislead citizens that there is viable option to the plan put forth by the School Committee and its athletic fields study subcommittee. There is not. These gentlemen have all been informed of the baseball problem with their idea as well as many other problems several times. In fact, I wrote a 14-page response to the Shirley fincom detailing all of the problems with their idea. I am happy to make that response available to anyone who sends me an email at dgleason@asrsd.org.

So there is no alternative plan, Plan B, or whatever anyone would like to call it. Mr. Quinty had an idea. It was investigated, discussed, and rejected 9-0 by the subcommittee (including four Shirley residents) and 5-1 by the School Committee.

There is nothing viable to reconsider. Neither town is building us a baseball field, nor should they.

If you are considering voting no because you do not feel you cannot afford the property tax increase, I can understand and respect that.

However, if you’re considering voting no because you believe there is a viable alternative as presented by Mr. Quinty and company that will follow a no vote, please reconsider. There is not.

You need to ask yourself … do three men who did not participate on the study subcommittee, have not worked with a consultant on the feasibility and cost of their idea, have not consulted with the athletic director, and who have no personal expertise in this field, know more about this topic than a nine-person subcommittee of Ayer and Shirley citizens; several members of district staff including the athletic director and coaches; and the Ayer parks director, all of whom who studied this issue for nine months (including the Quinty idea) and who have been working on this project for nearly two years?

If Messrs. Quinty, O’Keefe, or Capucci bring this idea up in conversation, please ask them where high school baseball will be played, what their idea will cost, will it fit in the space available (Mr. Quinty once he said he thinks so because he “paced it off”), or if they have consulted the high school athletic director about their idea (they have not and he is opposed to it). Ask them if they have consulted with (Keith) Begun in Shirley or (Jeff) Thomas in Ayer as to the availability and viability of baseball fields in those towns. To the best of my knowledge they have not. However, Mr. Begun served on our subcommittee and Mr. Thomas attended many of the meetings. They have been deeply involved in our study and planning.

Dan Gleason

Ayer

(The author is a member of the Ayer Shirley Regional School Committee and Athletic Fields Subcommittee.)