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This is in response to letters by Justin Cullinan and John O’Keefe regarding the high school field project in Ayer/Shirley:

O’Keefe’s letter:

1.  Baseball

There is minimal spend on baseball. $510,600 is proposed on baseball AND softball. That is 7% of the project, not “almost $2 million” or 1/3rd (33%).

2.  Elementary schools

Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) aid will be available for ANY renovation. MSBA aid is not tied to a regional school.

3. Concession Stand and Press Box

Mr. O’Keefe does not understand the use or need for these components. He has no background or expertise in high school athletic administration or school capital planning and design.

There are many reasons for the press box, but one is the use of expensive electronics for operating the scoreboard, game filming, etc. There needs to be protection from weather.

The concession stand raises money for various student activities such as homecoming and prom, activities not funded in the school budget. Concession funds defray costs that otherwise would have to be in the school budget.

Cullinan’s  letter:

1.  Over the long term synthetic turf is cheaper than natural grass.  The Athletic Fields subcommittee did a cost benefit analysis.  We also looked at ones from North Middlesex and Littleton which had the same result.  Long term costs of natural grass maintenance like water, fertilizer and mowing are not mentioned. Synthetic turf requires comparatively little maintenance.

2.  The elementary schools are not falling apart. The school committee had a study of both buildings done by Flansburgh & Associates architects. They found no safety issues and no need for structural repairs.

3. The process to build schools is controlled by the MSBA. Only 25-30% of projects get approved each year. Once selected, it takes 5-7 years to completion.  And you can only submit for one building at a time. BEST CASE, in 10-14 years, you MAY have two new schools. The fields are falling apart NOW.

Dan Gleason

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