At its 90-minute meeting Wednesday evening, the Parks & Recreation Commission was presented with a request to resurface a public cricket pitch, with commission members apparently unaware that enthusiasts had already purchased resurfacing materials and were going to seek compensation for their purchase and installation at a cost of about $9,000.
Rajan (Raj) Rajanagan and Ravi Dasari of the Hopkinton Cricket Club (Dasari also this week was elected to the Parks & Recreation Commission) led the discussion about the need for the resurfacing of the turf cricket pitch on Fruit Street. While the surface applied in 2017 was designed to last for about five years, they explained that the initial use of cleats in the first year wore away the playing area. Concerns were raised about players slipping and falling.
They added that they received estimates on the surfacing materials for about $4,300 and were going to perform the labor, which was expected to cost about $4,000 because of the scraping off of the old material.
Not repairing the field, they said, would prevent them from hosting upcoming tournaments. They agreed to install the turf, which is being stored at the site, as soon as the commission grants its permission and agrees on reimbursement for materials and labor.
Chair Dan Terry said this situation presented “a little bit of a gray area” because prior authorization for the purchase was not obtained.
“Since the material has already been purchased, I don’t even know how we’d go about reimbursing,” he said. “I mean, can you even write a check to an organization like that?”
There is a $10,000 cap before Town Hall becomes involved in procurements, explained outgoing Parks & Recreation Director Jay Guelfi. He advised that three bids for the materials should have been sought before making the purchase to ensure that the materials are not only economically feasible but up to the sport’s standards.
The cricket advocates said they got “three or four quotations,” which Terry called “good business.”
Repairing the cricket pitch takes three to four days, Rajanagan and Dasari explained. It must be done as soon as possible because of the tournament season, and it cannot be done in stages because the entire area would be deemed unusable. The pitch at Victory Field is still in good condition.
Commissioner Amy O’Donnell questioned the impact on the soccer field that hosts the cricket pitches. She was told that there would be a barrier installed around the site during the resurfacing.
She also stressed that a new cricket pitch will be built after $1 million was allocated at Town Meeting earlier this month in a Community Preservation Committee funding request.
“I know in the past, we’ve gotten creative with crediting things,” Terry said.
Guelfi suggested that the money could be withdrawn from the Fruit Street fund as a maintenance request. In the past 12 months, the cricket players said the group has spent between $12,000 and $15,000 in user fees.
The materials were purchased from a vendor in Quincy, according to Rajanagan and Dasari. They later said they would employ a local contractor for the installation.
Guelfi said the bids need to be received to justify the expenses. Terry agreed that the quotes should be reviewed.
The commission voted 4-0 to approve authorizing the director and chair to spend up to $9,000 to repair the cricket pitch, with the contingency that the Hopkinton Cricket Club provide three quotes for materials and installation.
Rental requests lead to policy questions
Earlier in the meeting, the commission heard three requests to use Parks & Recreation property for private use.
The first came from Kristine Fox, who said she represented Tine’s Wolf Pack. She said she wanted to host a softball tournament on Aug. 12 at either the EMC or Carrigan baseball fields to raise money for local nonprofit Greyhound Friends. She said she has donated her time for 13 years to fundraising activities to find homes for greyhounds.
Commissioner Laura Hanson brought up that Greyhound Friends “had some legal troubles in town.” The kennel was shut down in 2017 and later forced to reorganize without its founder/executive director following allegations of impropriety.
“The legal thing has nothing to do with fundraising for the dogs as well as my group,” Fox explained.
Replied Hanson: “Well it does, depending on where the money is going to go, because the money was very suspect in where some of it went in the past.”
Fox said the legal process regarding Greyhound Friends has been closed, and “different people ran it.” She added that the money will be used to fix the HVAC system. She wanted to use the event as “an opportunity to reconnect with the community.”
Six teams and a total of about 75 people would be expected to play. The teams would pay, in addition to private sponsorships. A food truck also was possible.
Guelfi said this would be the first time using the fields for this purpose, so a fee was unknown. He proposed offering the fields “as is.”
Terry said that the usage fee for other fields typically runs between $50-$100 per hour. The Little League, which has been a “tight, tight partner” of the department, provides maintenance for the fields in return for usage and should be consulted. A vendor may need to be contacted for pre-use field maintenance.
Hanson described offering the ballfields for charity events or private usage as “a slippery slope.”
Terry noted that the Select Board agreed to permit the event, and he wouldn’t “rehash it.”
Moms Group approved to use Sandy Beach
Hopkinton Moms Group member Alex Rowland requested the use of Sandy Beach Park from 4-6 p.m. for an after-school meetup on June 16. About 100 people are expected to attend, and possibly an ice cream or food truck. Tickets would be available to group members, but anyone could attend and buy an ice cream, she said.
One concern is that the beach is not staffed on Fridays. Two lifeguards would need to be hired. Guelfi said he could refer certified lifeguards to the group to hire.
“Understand, this is a sensitive subject for this group because we had a fatality there [in 2019], as you know,” Guelfi stressed. “We’re hyper-vigilant when there’s people swimming there — children swimming there — when there’s no lifeguard.”
Terry addressed safety and parking concerns and said that having a permit for a private event could lead to people being asked to leave the beach, although he didn’t expect it to happen.
Rowland said her purpose was to make families aware that this is a town-only resident beach because some mothers were not aware of its existence.
The application was approved 4-0 contingent upon two lifeguards being hired, as well as the timing of school bus traffic.
Korean Church requests Town Common use
David Chung, the associate pastor of the Korean Presbyterian Church, was scheduled to appear before the commission to request use of the Town Common on Sunday, June 4, from 12-3 p.m. for an annual church members activity, but he did not make the meeting. The group anticipates 200 attendees. No permit has been filed.
This again raised the issue of private groups renting town property.
“I think it does require some thought,” Terry said, noting that the Town Common is intended for public passive recreation. “I don’t know if we want to get into the business of parsing out this [property] without a lot of thought.”
Finalists for EMC Park mural chosen
Five finalists were chosen to display their artwork as part of the EMC Park mural contest. They were reviewed by commission members and approved unanimously to determine that the art was not offensive in nature.
The murals will be included on the fence leading to EMC Park.
Guelfi, Esthimer head out
Guelfi announced that his last day will be Friday, as he is retiring from his position. The interim replacement is Pat Savage, who formerly led the Parks & Rec Department for Westford. Guelfi also announced that Erin Grogan has been hired as the new coordinator after a rigorous review process.
The commission also thanked commission member Cynthia Esthimer for her dedicated years of service. She is leaving the board and moving out of town.