The Parks & Recreation Commission at its 90-minute meeting Monday evening discussed the tragic drowning of a 21-year-old Hopkinton resident whose body was recovered in Lake Maspenock on July 22.
Wilinson Orbe Quito was reported missing the previous evening by a friend who was swimming with him at Sandy Beach. The pair had ventured past Sandy Beach’s safe-swim zone and further into Lake Maspenock.
Interim Parks & Rec Director Pat Savage said she first was contacted by public safety officials about the incident at about 1:30 a.m. on July 22. Later that morning, she spoke several times with Gary Daugherty, the town’s interim fire chief, who told her that the beach had been closed and that rescue crews had gone into the search and recovery process.
Said Savage: “I was really impressed with the police and fire departments and how they kept me informed.”
The beach was closed on the night of the drowning, and lifeguards are not present after 5 p.m. Savage noted that incidents like this tend to happen during off-hours and when a person is not a strong swimmer.
For next year, Savage suggested that staff be trained in how to respond to media requests during emergencies such as this. She also said that it was a good time to analyze “what was done right, and what could be done better.”
Commissioner Seth Kenney, who lives in the Lake Maspenock area, said Lake Maspenock Preservation Association members are encouraging signage at the beach about the water’s depth. He is the commission’s liaison to the LMPA.
“The drop-off is really pretty steep once you get past the buoys,” he explained, noting that the water quickly goes from about waist- or chest-level to 10 feet.
Commissioner Laura Hanson suggested that there be signs on the buoys as well as at the beach explaining the hazards of swimming past the designated area.
“Signs don’t stop people,” Savage said. “Somebody who wants to go swimming is going to find a way to do that. But that’s definitely something to look at because it always comes into question.”
“It’s just a sad thing to happen,” added chair Dan Terry, noting that this is the second drowning at Sandy Beach in four years.
Commissioner Amy O’Donnell questioned the frequency of night swimming at Sandy Beach after it is closed. She said she had heard on a broadcast news interview from a neighbor that people are swimming there “almost every night.”
Said O’Donnell: “If they are swimming at night, there’s a risk of it happening again.”
“People are definitely there after 5 o’clock, for sure,” Kenney replied, noting that police do walk the beach then and ticket non-resident cars but do not require people to leave.
“I hope that it’s a very isolated incident,” Hanson said, noting that cameras are present on the beach. She called the circumstances “unusual” because of the thunderstorms and torrential downpours that night.
Procurement process discussed regarding dog park pavilion, cricket field resurfacing
Savage stressed the need for the department to go through the proper procurement process when projects are being discussed.
Hanson mentioned that she spoke with project consultant Andrew Leonard about the proposed pavilion and circular walking path at the dog park, which was discussed at the last meeting.
“You have to understand procurement issues,” Savage said as she handed out a copy of the state’s procurement laws. “That’s really where the commission has made errors in the past.”
One such issue was the procurement of a turf carpet for the town’s public cricket pitch, which was discussed later in the meeting.
Savage explained that because commissioners are elected officials, they cannot solicit information from vendors. If a discussion is held beforehand, even to get estimates, that could prevent a vendor from being able to bid on a contract.
Said Savage: “As much as you want to get things done tomorrow, that’s not how it works, unfortunately.”
Added Terry: “There’s a fine line between what’s efficient and the state’s rules.”
The director is the one who should be reaching out to vendors, she added. Savage also noted that Beryl Wagner, the town’s procurement and grants manager, is leaving her job as of Friday. This likely will slow down procurement approvals.
Town Meeting in May approved a Community Preservation Committee funding request for $60,000 for the pavilion. Hanson estimated the current cost at about $47,000 for a 12-foot by 18-foot pavilion. She noted that dog park frequenters have been looking for a shade structure.
Terry suggested that a cheaper alternative would be to use sail shades.
Said Terry: “It’s a dog park, not a shade park.”
Hanson countered that Town Meeting voted for the pavilion. The sail shades would need to be installed and removed, whereas a pavilion would be permanent and an asset to the area for the neighbors who like to gather there.
Terry said that both ideas should be floated to see which is preferred.
Resurfacing of public turf cricket pitch may move forward if material is donated
Savage spoke about the potential for resurfacing the public cricket pitch. The turf material was purchased for the project by the Hopkinton Cricket Club, but members were unaware that they should have gone through the town’s procurement process first.
She asked commissioner and cricket enthusiast Ravi Dasari if he would ask the Cricket Club if it would be willing to donate the turf carpet to the town. Terry added that a clause could be added stating “that the carpet be installed as soon as possible” to hasten the process, as well as the dollar value. Dasari said he would ask the Cricket Club about the matter.
Savage said the donation would allow her to proceed with seeking a contractor to install the material.
School facility use fee increase considered
Terry said he communicated with School Committee chair Nancy Cavanaugh about the notification that the department received last month about fee increases for the use of school facilities. He noted that the proposed rate would triple to $45 for gym and field use as of Sept. 1.
His hope was that the School Department would put the Parks & Rec Department in a cheaper tier, given that they share each other’s facilities. Parks & Rec is scheduled to be placed in the third-highest tier out of four, but he suggested that they be put in the second tier, which is for “friends of the schools” such as the Hopkinton Center for the Arts. He expressed that to Cavanaugh, who said she would discuss the idea with the School Committee and find out why the department received the designation.
Said Terry: “If we don’t get put into that Column 2, I think we need to have a conversation.”
Misc.: Interviews conducted for department director
Savage told the commission that seven candidates were interviewed for the permanent director’s position last week. The finalists will need to be reviewed by commission members before appearing before the Select Board for its final approval. …
The commission voted unanimously to direct Savage to begin the purchase process for the boat dock at Lake Maspenock. …
The next meeting will be held Aug. 21. The following meeting will be Sept. 6. Both meetings will begin at 5:30 p.m. and be held in a hybrid (in-person/online) format.