Marion, Mattapoisett approve ORR renovation project

May 15, 2019

As of May 14 both Marion and Mattapoisett Town Meetings have approved a $2 million high school renovation project to go to town votes on May 17 and May 21. Rochester Town Meeting on will also need to approve the measure on May 20 and vote on it in a special town election before the project is fully approved. 

Against the Finance Committee’s and Board of Selectmen’s wishes, Mattapoisett voters approved the Old Rochester Regional field and auditorium renovation project for the ballot at 190 to 80 on May 13. Marion voters also approved the measure against their Finance Committee’s recommendation on April 14. The positive vote was met with cheers from the Marion audience. 

The debt-excluded project involves resurfacing the track and rebuilding the grass infield with turf. Lights for the main stadium field, as well as auditorium fixes such as a digital LED light system, audio system and wiring upgrades and the addition of auditorium monitors are also included.

School Committee Chair Cary Humphrey said the renovations would cost Mattapoisett taxpayers $19.57 a year. In Marion the cost would be $25.11 per year for the average taxpayer. The debt would be funded by a Proposition 2-1/2 override, which would temporarily raise the town’s permitted tax rate above the norm to pay for the renovation project.  

Mattapoisett Finance Committee Chair Pat Donoghue said she was doubtful of that number.

Donoghue said through her research she found the artificial turf will last at best 10 to 12 years and the manufacturer guaranteed it would last 8 years.

“I’m sure you can find a salesman that will tell you it will last forever but until I see something in writing from the company or the manufacturer that says it’s really gonna last at least 20 years, I’m not going to be comfortable financing over 15,” said Donoghue, “We don’t do debt on assets that are going to deteriorate over time.”

Some Marion residents supported the project overall but were concerned about maintaining the new facilities.

However the project’s proponents pointed out that renting the fields out to youth sports leagues and other community could help cover the costs of maintenance. 

Marion’s Stephen Health said that the “maintenance that has been done or not been done [on the current field] is not going to fix that field. That field is going to be dangerous as long as it is grass. The field that is proposed is going to be safer, less maintenance costs.” Though some were concerned about the wear on the turf field and the cost of replacing components, Heath said, “I wouldn’t worry about it going away in 15 years.”

ORRHS senior and Lacrosse Captain Gates Tenerowicz responded to Donoghue at Mattapoisett’s meeting.

Tenerowicz said she witnessed a player from another team roll her ankle while walking up from the net on the field, and had a teammate slip and tear her ACL. 

“I understand the financial concerns with this project but to me what is the cost of my safety and my peers’ safety and the pride of my community?” said Tenerowicz, “Frankly it’s terrifying to see your friends, and your peers and even your competitors put at risk.”

In response, Donoghue said while there are valid safety concerns, she said there are many throughout the town, with some that take higher priority.

“I don’t philosophically disagree with providing our students with the best that we can,” said Donoghue, “However, they are not the only people in town, they are not the only ones that I’m concerned about. It’s everybody.”

Heath pointed out that “Mattapoisett approved field and renovation, despite the fire station [approval at a high cost]. I think I would be ashamed if we here in Marion valued our kids less.”

Anthony Mattson felt it was unfair to hold maintenance costs against the school, given Marion’s record with maintenance costs.

“How dare anyone talk about the lack of maintenance at the school when we’re dealing with the septic system” issues, he said.

Voters in Marion and Mattapoisett also approved a separate warrant article to fund one-third of the cost of making the press box at Old Rochester Regional’s football field handicap-accessible. The Old Rochester Regional Athletic Booster Club has raised $50,000 to cover the cost of the box itself. However the handicap ramp and elevator will cost $60,000. The booster club proposed that each town will be asked to contribute $20,000 to fund a ramp and lift that would allow wheelchair access to the box.

Rochester must approve this proposal for it to go through as well.