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Parks & Recreation Commission questions proposed student parking fees at EMC Park lot

by | May 15, 2024 | Featured: News, News

The Parks & Recreation Commission tackled a hefty agenda Tuesday night, with student parking at the EMC Park parking lot and the potential for charging fees generating the most discussion.

Parks & Rec Director Jon Lewitus discussed the continuing problem with students taking up spaces at the lot with Hopkinton High School Principal Evan Bishop. Student parking hinders resident usage of the park and playground because the lot is continually full during the day.

To help alleviate the problem, he said two-hour parking signs for weekday use will be installed later this week. But they will not have as great of an impact right now, as seniors are participating in capstone projects and are off-site.

Lewitus said an application process to use the lot was proposed. Spaces would be prioritized for current rising juniors. They would be allotted based on when a driver’s license was issued, whether the student is “in good standing” based on disciplinary action and academic record, and whether the driver has received parking tickets.

There also will be a wait list. Those who violate good standing practices will lose their spaces, which will go to people on the wait list.

“They are basically asking us for as many spots as we are willing to give,” Lewitus said, noting that there are 79 spaces available besides the 11 two-hour spots and six accessible spots.

Lewitus told the board that the School Department is proposing charging students $200 per spot. Discussion ensued when he added that Bishop asked how much of that amount the Parks Department would want. The onus was put on Parks & Rec to go to the high school and discuss the percentage it would accept. If the commission voted not to accept fees, “then the students would be on their own.”

The issue for the high school, he said, did not seem to be financial but “a capacity thing.” Bishop will explain the issue in more detail at the next meeting in two weeks.

Chair Dan Terry took issue with the fee proposal.

“Philosophically it makes no sense to have one department charge another department for something that they have or do,” he said.

On the other hand, Terry said, the schools charge Parks & Rec to use school gyms for its programming. He said Parks & Rec should contribute money when additional custodial services are needed, for example.

He added: “I think it’s a shell game when we’re moving money around like this.”

Terry proposed discussing the issue with the School Committee and the HPS and town finance departments. Members agreed.

“We’re here to provide for the needs of the town,” he stressed, “not to seek out additional revenue resources.”

Commissioner Amy O’Donnell questioned why students have to pay for parking at all.

July 4th Horribles Parade approved

After some discussion, the commission voted 4-0 to approve the return of the July 4 Horribles Parade for the first time since the pandemic began.

Ken Weismantel, a Hopkinton Republican Town Committee member and parade subcommittee chair, explained that the parade historically was run by two local families, the Holdens and the McIntyres. When no one stepped up after the Holdens moved away several years ago and the McIntyres decided to stop running it, the HRTC decided to bring it back.

“The parade was a community event before my coming to town many years ago,” he said, noting the parade’s theme is satire. Awards would be given, and floats would be judged by a committee yet to be formed.

It would start at noon at the Town Common and loop around adjacent streets to end there. In past years, the event has featured police cars, fire trucks, floats, horses and marching musicians. What will not be allowed this year are the water balloon fights that used to occur, Weismantel said, because people threw frozen water balloons last time.

Commissioners questioned whether Republican themes would be highlighted given the nature of the sponsorship. Weismantel said the intent was to restore a community event, not use it as a political mechanism.

With so little time to seek another entity to organize the parade, Terry said he would approve the HRTC running it in this instance. His hope is that another group will take it over next year.

Members also suggested reaching out to the Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee to see if it would like to cosponsor the parade.

Little League scoreboard donation approved

Gabe Recos, president of the Hopkinton Little League, appeared before the commission with a proposal to donate a scoreboard for Field E at EMC Park. The scoreboard would be similar to the scoreboard at Carrigan Park. It would be 4 feet by 9 feet, run on solar power and be operated with a wireless control. Installation is expected to occur this fall or early next spring.

He added that installation is expected to cost between $23,000-$30,000. It would be funded primarily by a donation made to the Hopkinton Little League, with the league picking up the remaining cost.

The commission voted 4-0 to approve it, pending approval by the town’s procurement department. Because it would be considered a gift to the town, it would need Select Board approval.

Town Common use request prompts discussion

The commission approved a request to use the Town Common for Sunday’s Asian American Heritage Month’s celebration. This event is being co-sponsored by the South Asian Circle of Hopkinton (SACH) and the Hopkinton Chinese American Association. The event is free, and all are invited to attend.

It denied a request from the Korean Presbyterian Church in Greater Boston, located at 2 Main Street, for a church social event on June 2. About 250 people were expected to attend, according to church representative David Chung, a Hopkinton resident.

Commissioners expressed concerns about the exclusive nature of the event as well as its length and religious affiliation. Terry noted that June is a key time for public use of the Town Common and that it was not meant for large-scale events like this.

After voting not to approve the request, members mentioned to Chung that the rear yard at the Center School would be a more viable option. He would need to seek Select Board approval if the church decides it would like to hold the event there.

Sammon welcomed; Kenney bids farewell

Lewitus introduced Maureen Sammon, the department’s new program coordinator/summer supervisor. She has been on the job for about six weeks. During this time, she has conducted about 50 interviews for summer positions. Lewitus noted that the department is still in desperate need of lifeguards.

Joked Lewitus: “I threw her right into the fire.”

At the meeting’s end, commissioner Seth Kenney was praised for his service. He chaired the Sandy Beach subcommittee and did not run for reelection to the commission.

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