Recap of eHop’s Spotlight Forum on Town Fields
On November 8, 2017 eHop held a Spotlight Forum on Town Fields, taking a citizen’s look at all fields in town—how they are used, managed, scheduled, and maintained—as well as new field initiatives being proposed for the future. The panel included Jean Bertschmann, School Committee Member, Jay Guelfi, Parks & Rec Director, Dan Terry, Parks & Rec Commission Member, Tim Persson, Director of HHS Buildings and Grounds, and John Coutinho, Selectman. Forum moderator, Kristy Willadsen of eHop, began the discussion with a few questions from eHop and then opened it up for questions from the community. Here is a summary:
eHop Q: The Town has broken ground on a pavilion at the Fruit Street complex. When was this funded? Please explain the funding and the purpose of the building.
A: Dan Terry, Parks & Rec: Funding came in two parts. Initially there was a $500K grant from CPC [in 2015] for the building but as we got going and understood the scope and costs (tying into water and other things) we got solid numbers and then requested and were granted an additional $400K from CPC . We are currently constructing a building for the purpose of providing shelter, bathrooms, storage, and concessions.
eHop Q: What is the projected completion date?
A: Jay Guelfi, Parks & Rec: We broke ground in October and we anticipate it opening next spring.
eHop Q: Are there other Parks & Rec proposals coming to Town Meeting 2018?
A: Jay Guelf, Parks & Rec: We are faced with the challenge of providing field time to multiple sports at Fruit Street including soccer, a new non-contact football league, contact football, lacrosse, and high school field hockey. We can’t create new fields at Fruit Street, so the next option is to extend playing time on the current fields with permanent lighting. Last year we had portable lights which provided mixed results. They were adequate for practice but not games. Parks & Rec has engaged a lighting company for a quote and will ask Community Preservation Committee for funding for this ($600K). This is a very big need right now. Meanwhile, there is interest in adding cricket to the fields schedule. We need to increase the amount of playing time on our fields.
eHop Q: Please give us an overview and status of the initiative to add turf fields at the High School Complex.
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: The Athletic Subcommittee has been meeting for about a year and half now. Phase I is shown on the top of the slide [above] [replace grass with turf on Fields 4 & 5] and Phase II is shown on the bottom of the slide [above] [replace and widen the track, create expanded turf field on Field 3 to accommodate football, soccer, and lacrosse]. Phase I will be presented for funding at Annual Town Meeting 2018. It will be a multipurpose field that will accommodate soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, softball, baseball, football practices (not games), and track practices.
Jean Bertschmann: We are starting with Fields 4 & 5 because these fields will provide more flexibility for multi-use, more hours of play time, and greater rental opportunities. We are not starting with the football field (Field 3) because the track was resurfaced six years ago and we need to maximize the investment that the town has already made before upgrading. The track will be up for replacement in two years. We have requested up to $2.7 million dollars from the Community Preservation Committee to help with the cost of Phase I. It’s up to the CPC how much they can legally pay for as well as afford.
eHop Q: Could you give us a status update on the repairs to Field 13 following the vandalism in September?
A: Tim Persson, HHS Buildings & Grounds: The vandalism was very disappointing. We’ve had the field looking great so to have this happen at the beginning of the season was disappointing to the Grounds Department and also the students.
“We take great pride in our fields to make sure they are playable and something the Town can be proud of.”
The field is still under repair as of today. The repairs temporarily make the tire tracks look worse because the new loam and seeding has been spread thoroughly over the tracks. It’s taking awhile to get them back up to snuff. We expect the field to be playable in the spring. The field has gotten plenty of rest and is hopefully going to look fantastic by spring.
eHop Q: Could you please comment on field security?
A: Tim Persson, HHS Building & Grounds: There is not a lot of security at Field 13. There is a chain that is hung across the driveway from the parking lot onto the field. We are going lock up that chain and have more routine monitoring of the field by the police department.
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: The School Committee is including a capital item in the 2018 budget to add more cameras around the entire school property including the parking lots on the Loop Rd. [This will be voted on at Annual Town Meeting 2018.]
eHop Q: According to our town vision we know that recreation is central. How are town fields connected to the town vision?
A: John Coutinho, Selectman: I see fields as part of the overarching health, wellness, quality of life amenity, along with the trails, bike paths, and other things. Fields are a place for the community to get together and exercise. They are one part of the whole health and well being of Hopkinton.
eHop Q: Twenty acres of land is designated for active recreation as part of the host agreement with Legacy Farms. We understand that there is an RFP out for an international marathon facility. What is planned for that land and where are we in the process?
A: John Coutinho, Selectman: Two weeks ago our Town Manager put out a request for proposals [for a marathon facility] for that tract of land and also talked to the 26.2 Foundation. They are planning something similar to what they were trying to do with the skating rink – similar format.
eHop Q: What is Community Preservation Committee (CPC) funding? Who can apply for it?
A: Dan Terry, Parks & Rec and Member of the CPC: Community Preservation Act funds come from additional money on our tax bills that is accumulated into a CPA funds account. Within CPA funds there are different buckets of money allocated for open space, historic sites, affordable housing, passive and active outdoor recreation. The state matches a percentage of these funds.
Questions from community members:
Q: How long are turf fields in play until more investment is needed for repair?
A: Jay Guelfi, Parks & Rec: Turf fields typically last 8 – 10 years. The day you install turf you need to have a plan for re-installation.
A: Dan Terry, Parks & Rec: The Fruit Street turf fields cost roughly $1.6 M to install. They were evaluated about a month ago and have four to five years left until they need to be replaced, which will bring them to twelve to thirteen years old (longer than the average). With proper maintenance we can prolong the life of turf fields.
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: The current cost estimate for creating turf fields on Fields 4 & 5 is $3.8 Million. The $2.7 million dollar number is the grant that we have requested from the Community Preservation Committee. In terms of paying for replacement down the road, if you look at it from a money perspective, there is a difference in maintenance costs between turf and grass. For the school department,
“We are so short on usage hours. The added time made available by synthetic fields for our athletes to practice is a critical reason why we are bringing this forward.”
New England comes with snow and our spring sports tryouts are usually very delayed or played inside. The ability to have turf fields extends the amount of playing hours available to our athletes. Turf can be played on more months out of the year than grass. The Athletics Subcommittee plans to set up a revolving fund where money from rentals of turf fields 4 & 5 will be held. This will be separate from the revolving fund that Parks & Rec has for Fruit Street rentals. This money will pay for turf maintenance on fields 4 & 5 and help offset the cost of turf carpet replacement. The Fields Subcommittee is working with Parks & Rec on an agreement in which there will be time on the turf fields designated for school use and beyond that Parks and Rec will be able to use the fields, including renting to private groups (similar to what they do at Fruit Street). [eHop note: the Fields Subcommittee has proposed a plan that prioritizes the scheduling of new turf fields as follows: 1) School teams, 2) community use, 3) private club sports rentals.] We will have lights on the new turf fields which will extend playing time. The new turf will include baseball and softball [not available at Fruit Street] which rent for a premium. All proceeds from rentals will help pay for regular maintenance and will help offset replacement costs in the long term.
A: Dan Terry, Parks & Rec: The cost of replacement will not be as much as installation. Perhaps less than half of the cost.
Q: How much does it cost to maintain Fields 4 and 5 today (currently grass fields)? For comparison, the projected cost of new turf is $3.8 Million dollars which divided by 10 years (average lifespan of turf) equals an incremental annualized cost of $380K.
A: Tim Persson, HHS Buildings & Grounds: The estimated cost of maintaining each grass field is $25K a year. Annual maintenance cost of turf is estimated at $9K, depending on the size. Beyond cost, it is important to compare the use that we will get out of turf versus grass. Grass on Fields 4 & 5 allows 250 uses per season while turf will allow 750 uses per season, in part because playing time will be extended into the night under new lights and turf is able to withstand more wear and tear.
A: Dan Terry, Parks & Rec: The Fields Subcommittee is not suggesting that we are going to save money by putting turf in. It’s more of a utilization issue and giving everyone in town an opportunity to get out on the fields days after the snow melts as opposed to waiting until May.
A: Jay Guelf, Park & Rec: One of the benefits of turf is that we can plow it. The Fruit Street fields have been plowed in February for soccer tournaments and last year they were plowed and used for HHS baseball, lacrosse, and soccer tryouts. It’s more of a utilization issue versus a long term cost savings.
“We have a lot of student athletes and a lot of youth sports. How do we get them all on safe, playable fields? How can we guarantee that every year?”
Q: Is a turf field as susceptible as grass to vandalism caused by vehicles/ATVs?
A: Jay Guelfi, Parks & Rec: While turf is susceptible to vandalism like any field, it would be harder to damage a turf field by driving on it. We can drive cars, plows, and commercial vehicles on turf without damaging it.
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: Also, we plan to add fencing with narrow entry gates around new turf on Fields 4 & 5 as well as security cameras.
Q: HHS field hockey now has to play on turf [due to new Tri-Valley League rules]. Should we expect more of this?
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: We currently rent space at Fruit Street for our High School field hockey team to play games because other towns will not play us on grass. So our home games are rented from Fruit Street. Three of the eleven Tri-Valley League towns do not have turf and Hopkinton is one of them. Turf fields have shock pads now which are highly rated in terms of concussion prevention. We don’t know if other sports will be required to play on turf in the future. We know that in other towns, many sports (soccer, lacrosse, football) are played on turf much more than in Hopkinton.
Q: There is currently no school bus transportation to and from Fruit Street practices and games. That’s a challenge for parents and students. Is there a plan for this?
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: The school does not provide school transportation to and from Fruit Street. That is a challenge for parents of sub-varsity teams with players who aren’t typically driving age. That said, there is no current plan to add transportation. We don’t do it for ice hockey, skiing, swimming, and golf. Field hockey isn’t the only sport in that situation.
Q: What is the process for approving turf on fields 4&5?
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: The School Fields Subcommittee has had two public forums and you can view the video of both [search “hcam hopkinton fields” on YouTube]. All of our subcommittee meetings are public [see minutes posted on the School Committee page here: https://www.hopkinton.k12.ma.us/domain/89 and see general updates on the subcommittee Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/HopkintonFields/]. We will hold a third public forum in the spring close to town meeting. We’ll have a more refined number for the total cost as well as an amount of potential grant funds from the Community Preservation Committee at that time. Before Town Meeting we will get a tax impact number from the Town Treasurer. In order for the turf field proposal to pass at Annual Town Meeting, 2/3rds of voters present must vote yes. If the article passes at Town Meeting, it will be a debt exclusion and placed on the ballot and we will vote on it on election day. If it passes at Town Meeting 2018 we will break ground shortly after the 2017/2018 school year ends and the new turf fields should be playable in September 2018.
Q: Is there any chance the turf proposal will not be presented at Annual Town Meeting 2018? This is what happened last year.
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: Last year we had started the process and School Committee had turf on its capital request sheet but we weren’t far enough along in the process to have a valid number and we missed the application window for Community Preservation Committee grants. For a number of reasons, the School Committee pulled the proposal because it was not ready to go forward. The work never stopped though and we are prepared for Town Meeting 2018.
Q: Will the Selectmen get briefed before Town Meeting? Where do they stand on this?
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: The Board of Selectmen review all capital articles and have control over what goes on the ballot. The Fields Subcommittee hasn’t made an official presentation to the Board of Selectmen at this point and no vote has been taken at this time. We have tried to keep them informed. We do not have hard numbers yet.
A: John Coutinho, Selectman: They haven’t made the proposal to us. No hard numbers. I don’t want to speak on it until then.
Q: Phase I will cost $3.8 Million. What is the cost of Phase II? [Phase II will include replacing and expanding the track from 6 – 8 lanes and creating a larger turf field on Field 3 for football, soccer, and lacrosse]?
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: We don’t have an answer because it’s too far down the road to have a valid number. The reason why we have schematic drawings for both phases I and II is because there is drainage that starts in the parking lot [by the water towers] that goes under Field 3 [football stadium] and under Fields 4 and 5. If we enter into Phase II we will expand the track from 6 to 8 lanes and make the field bigger. The current football field is too small for lacrosse and soccer. So we would make the field larger and widen the track. All planning for Phases I and II is being done together and the Fields Subcommittee is going to the Conservation Commission for permits for both Phases at the same time so that we know they have checked that everything will work together. The other thing that you don’t see on the schematic plan is that we have recently built a Cross Country course for Middle Schoolers, off the Center Trail and up to the edge of the softball field (Field 4). The School Committee worked with Cross Country and our designer to make sure that the new fencing and gate placement will not conflict with the cross country running route on Fields 4 & 5.
Q: Will the infrastructure of Fields 4 & 5 be fine if we decide not to do Phase II?
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: Yes. But we will need to replace the track in a few years whether we expand and add turf on Field 3 or not. [Update provided by Jean Bertschmann after the forum: In 2012 we added 1 1/2″ new pavement under the track and BSS-100 Urethane track surfacing. That should extend the usable life of the track to 10 years. So, something will need to be done to the track closer to 2022 (FY21, FY22, or FY23, pending review). That would be the optimal timing for Phase II.]
Q: To clarify, the “new” track that exists today is just the surface of the track? What goes under the track?
A: Tim Persson, HHS Buildings & Grounds: The surface of the track was replaced in 2012. Underneath there is a subbase, drainage, and other layers under the surface. After years and years the subbase starts to loosen and crumble. In a few years we will need to fully replace the subbase, drainage, and surface.
Q: When you requested $2.7 Million from the Community Preservation Committee was that for $2.7 million in immediate funding or was it for $2.7 Million bonded where CPC would then pay the note against that loan?
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: We didn’t specify, however whatever money they are able to offer and however they are able to do it, is CPC’s decision.
Q: Is there a plan to add netting at Fruit Street to stop balls from going into the wilderness [opposite the parking lot]?
A: Dan Terry, Parks & Rec: Parks & Rec has requested funding for additional netting from the Community Preservation Committee. Is it not our top priority right now. CPC has a lot of work to do in terms of the requests that all groups have submitted to them. So where it falls on CPC’s priority list remains to be seen. The cost is roughly $50K. [eHop note: Netting was added to the parking lot side of Fruit Street fields in 2017 after the town voted to approve $50K in CPC funds for this at Annual Town Meeting 2017].
Q: How much will it cost to install and maintain security cameras? Have other security measures been considered — signage around fields for the general public? There aren’t very many signs for the general public.
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: The School Committee has a $200K capital request for Town Meeting for security, which includes security cameras and more. Every year we have a proposal to increase security at the schools (adding double entrance doors in all schools, for example). Security cameras are a portion of the current request for $200K — not the full amount. The suggestion for better signage is a good one. Tim Persson is the person to talk to about this.
Q: Taxes are an important consideration in voting on the turf field proposal. Can you please explain how Community Preservation Committee funds will impact our taxes?
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: A portion of our tax dollars goes into CPC every year and there is state matching money as well. As a taxpayer, you have already contributed to this fund and the state has matched it. Taking money that the town already has and applying it to this project (or any project) saves you an additional increase on your taxes.You take the total cost of the project, minus CPC grant money, and the leftover amount comes out of our tax base. When we know that number, the Town Treasurer will come up with the average tax cost for an average household.
Q: Does the town have to use up all CPC funds each year or does the money roll over from one year to the next?
A: Dan Terry, Parks & Rec and CPC member: We contribute to the CPC fund every year and the state matches the funds. There is a decent balance in the account at the moment. The last time I saw, it was over $3 Million. But we are waiting to see final numbers after the close of the last fiscal year from the Finance Director. We have done a good job in town saving money in the CPC account for projects.
Comment: Brian Herr, Selectman: If you look on your real estate quarterly tax bill you will see a line item that shows what portion of your tax dollars is pulled from your taxes to go into CPA funds (Community Preservation Act). The state matches a percentage. It’s not a dollar for dollar match. Money from CPC won’t increase the tax levy. The Town has been doing this for the last 17 or 18 years.
A: Dan Terry, Parks & Rec and CPC Member: The process is that groups come in seeking grants and then the Community Preservation Committee makes a recommendation as to which projects can get money and which cannot. Then the Board of Selectmen signs off on the CPC’s recommendations and they go to Town Meeting for a vote. The money that is spent out of CPC is money that we’ve already been levied tax-wise and it doesn’t increase the tax burden in the future.
Comment: Tom Garabedian, Town Moderator: I’d like to make a pitch for Town Meeting. What happens if there are only 200 people at Town Meeting… Town Meeting ultimately spends this money. Town Meeting can shift around CPA funds and any other funds in the budgets.
“It is incumbent upon voters in the community, who all have an interest in their own pocket books, to show up at Town Meeting and weigh in on how these moneys are being spent. So this is encouragement for people to attend Town Meeting in May and participate in our democracy.”
Q: You’ve talked about increased utilization with turf. If turf is added on Fields 4 & 5, can the schools use those fields in the day?
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: Yes. Our wellness classes do go outside during the school day.
Q: Why is there disparity in the condition of current town fields? Some fields are in wonderful condition others are not. My kids play on Emerald and Victory fields.
A: Jay Guelfi, Parks & Rec: We don’t have irrigation at Emerald, Daniel Shay, and Pyne. It’s hard to play on a field that you can’t hydrate. In the fall, we have a lot of groups vying for time on the same fields. We have a user agreement with Hopkinton Youth Soccer which includes 1,200 participants. They have priority. We work really hard to try to get all kids playing on good fields.
A: Dan Terry, Parks & Rec: It comes down to how many fields are available. We don’t have enough field space. The whole community will benefit from turf.
A: Jay Guelfi: If we add lighting at Fruit Street we will need less time on fields that lack irrigation.
Q: Lacrosse would like to add a concrete bounce back wall at Fruit Street to be used by lacrosse and soccer. They have outside sponsors that can pay for it. What is the process for requesting this?
A: Dan Terry, Parks & Rec: Come to a Parks & Rec meeting and talk to Jay Guelfi. I believe there is space for that.
Q: Where can residents follow up to get updates on proposals coming to Town Meeting 2018:
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: Go to the Fields Subcommittee website https://www.hopkinton.k12.ma.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=6159, come to our spring forum, watch for and attend a site walk, look for recordings on HCAM for School Committee meetings and Fields Subcommittee forums https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8WekT6kxX1B3xlP6fIr3QmhJButK4GkU, read the minutes from all meetings https://www.hopkinton.k12.ma.us/domain/89, go to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HopkintonFields/, follow the Hopkinton Fields Athletic Subcommittee on Twitter @ Hopkintonfields.
Q: What will the cost be for permanent lighting at Fruit Street fields?
A: Dan Terry, Parks & Rec: The placeholder with CPC is for $600K.
Q: Will lighting be added to the parking lot next to Fields 4 & 5? Parking can be challenging there.
A: Jean Bertschmann, School Committee: Lighting in that parking lot is included in the turf proposal. The proposal also meets ADA standards for field access. Another capital item being requested by the School Committee at Town Meeting 2018 relates to studying Field 9 [immediately behind the High School cafeteria] as a location to solve parking and queueing problems (parents can no longer cue on Hayden Rowe due to new traffic calming measures). This field could be paved to provide more parking for sporting events and school faculty. It could also serve as a place for cars to queue on school property before and after school.
Q: What can residents do now?
A: eHop: Get involved! Ask questions by email and in person at meetings [see a calendar of Town board and committee meetings on eHop.org here: https://ehop.org/town-government/calendar/]. Attend Annual Town Meeting starting on Monday, May 7, 2018 at 7 pm in the Middle School auditorium. Go to the polls and vote at the election on May 21, 2018. Follow @eHop01748 on social media and sign up for our e-newsletter on ehop.org for updates about the fields and other policy and government matters. We keep everything concise and simple to make it easy for you.