New bill could help fund Old Rochester athletic field renovations
BOSTON – On Thursday, Nov. 3, the House and Senate voted to approve a major appropriations bill that includes $750,000 for new athletic fields at Old Rochester Regional High School.
The funding for the fields is part of a larger economic development bill that would provide nearly $3.8 billion in funding for economic development programs across the Commonwealth.
Old Rochester Regional High School principal Mike Devoll said that he has recently heard about this bill, and there are no specific plans for how the funding would be used for the fields yet.
“We are eager to collaborate with elected officials, but to date we have not sat down and reviewed the plan,” Devoll said.
This bill comes after a $2 million dollar project for a new turf field, track and auditorium was turned down by Rochester voters, who voted against the tax required to help finance the project.
An affirmative vote would have allowed all three towns to tax over the proposition 2-1/2 limit, which restricts tax rates increases to 2.5 percent, for fifteen years, until money borrowed for the project was repaid.
Mattapoisett and Marion voters approved the project in 2019 at their May Town Meeting. Rochester held a special election that July, where the proposal failed by 114 votes — 575 in favor to 689 against. As Old Rochester Regional High School serves all three towns, all of them had to approve the tax.
Proponents of the turf renovations previously argued that the turf field would be safer than the current grass field.
In a Rochester town meeting on May 20, 2019, ORR School Committee member Cary Humphrey explained that renovations for the athletic fields were part of a ten-year capital plan, which picked some of the most-needed projects. However, funding for this project has not been discussed or come up at Town Meetings since.
Also part of the capital plan were renovations to lights in the auditorium, which have been completed, and a project to resurface the track, which the school has secured funding for, said Devoll.
The bill now moves to Governor Baker for consideration.