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Parks & Rec Commission welcomes interim director during difficult time

by | Jun 13, 2023 | Featured: News, News

At its meeting Monday night, the Parks & Recreation Commission welcomed interim director Pat Savage, noting that the department has been in some disarray due to recent staff and committee departures.

“We’re really fortunate to have Pat,” said chair Dan Terry, who indicated that she was recommended by Town Manager Norman Khumalo. “The downside is that she’s busy.”

Savage, who came out of retirement to accept the interim position, is working 15 hours per week in this role. She began her career teaching physical education at the junior college level. Savage then served as the recreation supervisor for Newton for seven years. She left to become Sudbury’s recreation director, working that job for nearly nine years. After leaving in 2002, Savage became the director of parks, recreation and cemetery for the town of Westford, a position she held for more than 21 years until her recent retirement.

“Part of my background is the financial background of parks and grounds,” she said. “It’s the field I went into, and I actually got jobs in the field.”

She described the director’s role as being business oriented because of the collection of funds and dealing with multiple budgets.

Said Savage: “You no longer just throw the basketball out and play.”

Terry noted that the department has been understaffed because of the recent departures of Jay Guelfi (director) and Jennifer Hart (program coordinator). This has hampered progress on projects discussed over the past several months, including the million-dollar redesign of Pyne Field and the skate park at EMC Park.

“What I’ve seen from Pat so far is a real process-driven approach and understanding of how things are done,” Terry said. “I’m looking forward to us being in a different place 12 months from now with her help.”

He expressed some concern over the projects that received funding through the Community Preservation Committee, noting that the department previously “took the lead on them.” The pickleball/tennis facility project recently went out to bid, according to Savage, and the closing date is June 29.

The status of the skate park is unclear, Terry said. Dave Daltorio, the town engineer and facilities director, will be consulted for the most current information. Also on hold is the boat dock proposed for Sandy Beach until a file number for the project is received from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

One change Savage is implementing is putting staff work into modules with a backup person to ensure continuity and prevent the current situation from reoccurring. She said new program coordinator Erin Grogan is “a real go-getter” who will be helpful during this transition period.

Savage can provide some structure to the department during her tenure, Terry added. One thing she has done already is to hire someone to train summer staff in CPR and first aid. She also asked to hire an outside trainer for staff and lifeguard training on “basic group leadership techniques” and how to work with children.

“Many times, we’re the first employer of these individuals,” she said. “And so, really, we’re setting them up hopefully to be successful in their future careers.”

Savage will remain in this role until a permanent director is found. Applications will be accepted through June 29.

Cricket pitch hits snag

The highly anticipated cricket pitch has encountered a problem because cricket enthusiasts from the Hopkinton Cricket Club purchased resurfacing materials before meeting with the commission for approval.

Terry learned that although the club did receive multiple bids on the surface materials, this process should have been completed through the town’s procurement office. The bids the club received may not have considered prevailing wage. They also included sales tax, which would not need to be paid via the town process because Hopkinton is a municipality.

Said Savage: “Definitely, it did not go through the proper procurement for the town.”

She added that it would be easier for the club to donate the carpet it purchased to the town at this point. She was unclear if the carpet met the specifications required for a cricket pitch.

Terry added that the project “has kind of taken on a life of its own.”

Another problem brought up by commissioner Amy O’Donnell is that the cricket carpet is being stored in the Fruit Street closet behind the concession stand, preventing any equipment from going in or out. Lacrosse nets were supposed to be moved there, she said, but there is no room. Terry said he will consult Daltorio about a place to store this carpet.

Sandy Beach opening tentatively June 23

Savage expressed some concern about Sandy Beach being able to open on time on June 23. While lifeguards have been hired, a head lifeguard is not in place to supervise them. She said she would like a program supervisor in that role. The job description was modified to state that lifeguard certification is preferred but not required for this position. It must be posted for 10 days before someone can be hired, according to the town charter.

Taking out the lifeguard certification requirement will widen the pool of potential applicants, said Sabine St. Pierre of the Lake Maspenock Preservation Association. She added that the orange jersey barriers need to be set up at the entrance and exit gates.

Outside groups littered fields during recent tournament

Groups that rented the fields for a tournament during the Memorial Day weekend left behind bottles and trash, according to commissioners. O’Donnell said this caused the fields “to end up in a world of hurt.”

“It was trashed,” added commissioner Laura Hanson. “It was horrifying.”

Terry said this situation showed that “there were gaps in things we did” regarding supervision, noting that multiple teams can use a field during a day.

Savage suggested instituting a security deposit fee that would be refunded if the fields are left in good condition by renters.

Terry said outside players may have been using metal cleats at the high school field, which tend to tear up the surface. A person may need to be hired to monitor if cleats are used and to prevent damage to the fields.

Terry reelected as chair, Hanson new vice chair

The board reelected Terry as chair and voted to elect Hanson as vice chair, a position that previously was unfilled.

Terry noted that a new commissioner must be appointed by the Select Board in a joint meeting with the commission because commissioner Cynthia Esthimer moved out of state. He expected the joint meeting to be held “in the next couple of weeks.”

“We’ve lost some institutional knowledge,” he said of Esthimer, who was a longtime volunteer in town.

At the next meeting on June 27, committee liaisons will be discussed, including a new liaison to report on the conditions at the Fruit Street fields. In addition, there will be project liaisons for the CPC-funded projects to ensure continuity during the transition to a permanent director.

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