Friday, November 3, 2006
Banta-Davis expansion fails by two votes
"The Banta-Davis [Land] gives us the opportunity to create a park — not just a field — that all residents can use," began Recreation Commission Chair Allen Deary, attempting to broaden the appeal of Article 1, which proposed to build three new playing fields, four tennis courts, and other recreational facilities on the town-owned land on Bedford Road.
This was the Recreation Commission's second try to convince the town to support the expansion of playing facilities at Banta-Davis. Last spring voters at Town Meeting approved a similar plan for the construction of fields and tennis courts at a cost of $1,466,300. The vote also approved artificial turf for one multi-purpose field, which increased the total package to $2,044,900. However, one week later at the Town Election, the measure fell 11 votes short.
At the Special Town Meeting on Monday, after a lengthy debate, the Article failed by two votes.
Two Banta-Davis Articles
Article 1, sponsored by the Recreation Commission, requested that Town Meeting authorize the town to borrow $1,594,800 to construct new fields and recreational facilities on the town-owned Banta-Davis Land on Bedford Road. Currently there are three ball fields at the site, one each for baseball and softball field, and one multi-purpose field with surrounding running track. The proposal added two new Little League fields and one new multipurpose field. In addition, a Little League field on the public school's Spalding Field on Church Street would be converted to a softball field. Tennis courts at the school would be converted to two basketball courts, and four new tennis courts would be built at Banta-Davis. The proposal also included 2.5 miles of cross-country paths, 204 parking spaces. an open-air, covered pavilion for picnics and other gatherings.
Article 2 requested that the new multi-purpose field be built using artificial turf, estimated at $578,600. The synthetic material is cheaper to maintain as it requires no mowing, fertilizing or watering and requires no resting. Although artificial turf is expensive to install, it is guaranteed for eight years and is expected to last about 13.
Deary explained the need for these facilities, citing the growth of sports programs, including girls sports, intratown and travel programs, and community pick-up games. For example, considering Concord-Carlisle team programs only, Carlisle contributes 30% of the participants, but only 25% of the fields. With 250 teams in the two towns, 12,750 game or practice slots (lasting between one and two and a half hours each) are requested, but only 7,007 are currently available.
Deary admitted that playing fields can look empty during school hours and during the summer, but pointed out that current facilities are truly inadequate during 11 weeks in the spring and 11 weeks in the fall, after school and on weekends.
Residents question priorities
In the ensuing discussion, a number of residents confirmed that youth and community teams are constantly scrambling for field time. Others questioned Deary's analysis of need, and his player-hour numbers. Deary responded that the analyses were discussed at length in a number of public meetings and could not be repeated here.
Several attendees questioned the cost of the project — which would add approximately $125 to the average property tax bill over 15 years — in light of other town priorities. Susan Stamps of Cross Street said that her children did not participate in competitive sports and wondered "if pouring so many dollars into fields is in the children's best interest." She suggested that perhaps supporting pathways where kids can ride bikes, or programs for senior citizens would be money better spent. Al Powers of East Street reminded the audience that there will be large requests to the town "in a year or two" to rebuild the high school.
The Board of Selectmen supported passage of the Article unanimously. The Finance Committee also supported the Article, but split five to two.
A first hand vote on Article 1 was too close to call and Moderator Tom Raftery called out the tellers. After counting hands, the tally was 197 Yes and 101 No. Since Article 1 required a two-thirds majority to pass, the Banta-Davis proposal failed. Given this outcome, Article 2 was not moved.
Contacted two days later, Deary expressed his disappointment. "We didn't do an effective enough job to get our folks out [to the Town Meeting]. Last time (at the Spring Town Meeting) it passed so easily. It's our fault and the fault of the people who didn't come. We thought we had a well-thought-out, integrated plan that would benefit everyone in town. Everyone was disappointed. The Selectmen and all the town boards that supported the project believed that this was the right time [to build the recreational facilities]. We will need to re-think this."
© 2006 The