Mayor proposes $11.4 million park improvements in Weymouth

Some out-of-town sports leagues are reluctant to play on Weymouth’s well worn fields, but a proposed $11.4 million park improvement plan will encourage these teams to play in the town and provide more user fees for the coffers, according to Mayor Robert Hedlund.

Wicked Local | Ed Baker
November 2, 2016

Some out-of-town sports leagues are reluctant to play on Weymouth’s well worn fields, but a proposed $11.4 million park improvement plan will encourage these teams to play in the town and provide more user fees for coffers, according to Mayor Robert Hedlund.

Hedlund said the biggest proposed improvements would be a $6 million makeover at Lovell Playground and a $3 million in upgrades at Libby Field.

“Early last year, Mayor Kay put forward an $18 million debt exclusion override with $11 million of the funds would be for work at Lovell Playground,” Hedlund said.

Kay withdrew the debt exclusion override one hour before a town council public hearing in April 2015.

The council then approved a proposed $6.5 million Proposition 2 1Ž2 operation override during the session to boost the spending plans for the police, fire department, department of public works and schools at the urging of council President Patrick O’Connor.

Voters turned the measure down by approximately 1,600 votes in August 2015.

Hedlund said financing for the improvements at Libby, Lovell and 12 additional park sites is available because some prior long term town debts have been paid off.

“None of this will increase our debt service in our budget,” Hedlund said.

Hedlund said the financing for the park improvements would include some borrowing under a flexible payment plan.

“We want to keep this flexible,” Hedlund said. “We have Chapman Middle School and the library further down the road.”

A building study committee is seeking reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority for a proposed feasibility study of Chapman’s worthiness.

The MSBA could approve Weymouth’s application for the reimbursement when agency officials meet Nov. 9.

Hedlund’s administration is also seeking a state grant to cover 46 percent of the cost of constructing a new library or a renovation of Tufts.

A new facility could cost approximately $26.6 million, according to Hedlund.

Hedlund said his administration reduced the cost of a previously proposed makeover plan for Lovell Playground from $11 million to $6 million in response to environmental concerns raised by the conservation commission.

Commission members deadlocked on issuing an order of conditions in December for a plan proposed by Kay’s administration that included three multi-purposed artificial fields to accommodate youth soccer, lacrosse, and baseball.

Commissioners voiced concerns during a meeting about metals breaking loose from the fill under the turf and polluting the nearby town herring channel.

A revised plan will involve the use of organic fill under the turf to ease concerns about the herring run being negatively impacted by surface water runoff from the fields.

“The commission has given preliminary approval for the plan,” Hedlund said.

Hedlund said a restoration of Libby Field would involve having a baseball diamond that would meet the high school’s playing requirements and accommodate Triple A leagues, the town’s Babe Ruth League, the Cranberry League and American Legion teams.

“What we are proposing is to have high school varsity baseball play there,” Hedlund said. “We do expect to get some additional revenue from permit fees because of greater usage. Some of the field will be lighted.”

Hedlund said the lighting is designed to prevent unwanted light from illuminating the backyards of adjacent homes.

The Libby makeover plan also includes installing two semi-enclosed dugouts, construction of a small grandstand, a utility building, a walking path around the field perimeter, irrigation and a small storage building.

“I have heard nothing but optimism about the Libby Field plan,” Hedlund said.
Hedlund said the park improvement plan includes a $1.5 million makeover at Weston Park.

The proposed improvements include a natural grass field for youth baseball and girls softball, lighting to accommodate night games, extending a left-field fence, a reconfiguration of the park’s walkways, resurfacing a basketball court and improved landscaping.

Plans for Stella Tirrell Park call for replacing a baseball infield, renovating a bleacher area, removing a skate park and replacing it with a parking lot in addition to creating a walkway next to the backstop.

The improvement plan additionally proposes $278,000 in upgrades to a high school baseball field, installing a temporary outfield fence, relocating player benches in the dugouts, placing additional padding on the dugouts, constructing two outdoor basketball courts and renovating an existing basketball play area.

Additional improvements planned include a $120,000 appropriation to install new irrigation at Gifford Park and Brad Hawes Park.

The funding for Gifford includes investigating mosquito control, a new infield mix for the baseball diamond and an irrigation system.

The improvement plan also proposes to spend $120,000 to construct a new basketball court at Lane Beach and a playground.

Town council will hold a public hearing on Nov. 14 to elicit input from residents and sport interests about the proposed park improvement plan.

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