Friday, August 3, 2007
CCHS field project moves forward, incurs high legal fees
The Concord-Carlisle Regional School District has spent close to $50,000 in legal fees in connection with the contested project to build two artificial athletic fields on wooded land behind the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS), according to Director of Finance and Operations John Flaherty. The July 24 Regional School Committee (RSC) meeting was dominated by discussion of the project. RSC member Becky Shannon said, "It's most upsetting that all this money goes to legal costs."
Superintendent Brenda Finn raised a thick notebook to emphasize another expense — large quantities of public information have been requested for this project, taking staff time away from their usual school business.
Although the fields will be located on the high school property, Carlisle has not been asked to share the cost. Concord voters approved the project, which is to use a combination of private donations, Concord Community Preservation Act and general town funds.
The private group opposing the project, Friends of Thoreau Country, filed a complaint in Superior Court on July 16 to stop the project. They asked the Middlesex Superior Court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order to halt tree clearing for up to ten days, and after a hearing, to issue a Preliminary Injunction to further halt clearing until the lawsuit is decided.
Tree clearing resumed
Cutting was temporarily halted, but on July 18 the Court denied the request for injunctive relief, thereby allowing site clearing to resume. While admitting that it would be hard to restore the woods once cleared, Associate Justice Bruce Henry would not stop the site work because he felt it unlikely that the project opponents would win their lawsuit: "As the plaintiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims, the requested injunctive relief is denied." As of July 23, work was underway and 80% of the trees had been cleared.
RSC member Peter Fischelis described the timeline for the field construction project. The clearing of the site was expected to take ten days, earth moving was expected to take place over the summer and construction of the fields was to be done this fall.
The committee talked about whether new policies would need to be put in place to restrict the public's access to the area. They were not in favor of such policies, but they are concerned after an incident last spring where an abutter disrupted a biology class that was doing field research on the site.
Air pollution concerns
Concord resident Brooke de Lench voiced concern about building fields close to several possible sources of air pollution. "The fields are 100 feet from Route 2, 200 feet from the railroad tracks and 40 feet from the [school] bus depot. It's the highest-polluted area in town." She later stated that the fields would be located underneath Hanscom airport traffic and would also experience pollution from the parents' cars driving to and from the playing fields.
Her goal is to postpone the project for one year so an air quality analysis can be done. She handed out medical journals to each RSC member and warned, "I will call Mass. Public Health as soon as a child steps foot on those fields and shut it down."
De Lench later told the Mosquito that she is not an abutter to the project, nor does she belong to the opponent group, Friends of Thoreau Country. While she was away much of last year when the project was being discussed at board meetings, de Lench said she did speak out against the proposal during Concord's Town Meeting in the spring.
De Lench is the founder of www.MomsTeam.com, a web site devoted to promoting safety in youth sports, and has a background in advertising, marketing, journalism and photography.
Other RSC news
A meeting on September 20 is planned with the boards of selectmen and the finance committees of both Concord and Carlisle and the RSC, to discuss budgets. RSC member Michael Fitzgerald told the committee that Carlisle is "just south of dire" and that it would be a difficult year financially for Carlisle.
© 2007 The