PORTSMOUTH — The town purchased the 48-acre property about a decade ago and voters approved a half-million dollars to develop athletic fields there in 2007.
But now, the “Triple S” property off Sandy Point Avenue — conserved in an agreement between the town and the nonprofit Aquidneck Land Trust — is still nothing but cornfields.
Town Council member Keith Hamilton wants to get the project going again, however. He asked the council Monday night to consider Portsmouth Youth Lacrosse’s plan to convert the land — located on the south side of the upper portion of Sandy Point Avenue — into lacrosse and soccer fields as part of the town’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan. The organization currently uses part of the athletic complex at Glen Farm.
According to Mr. Hamilton, the initial cost for two fields would be $436,706, with another $149,324 for each additional field. Those estimates came from a local contractor, although the project would still have to go out to bid. The project would also allow for parking.
In 2007, Portsmouth voters approved a $4 million Open Space and Recreational Development Bond referendum. While most of the bond was earmarked for open space conservation acquisition ($2 million) and the Glen’s infrastructure demands (about $1.5 million), about $500,000 was set aside for the development of the athletic fields and supporting facilities at the “Triple S” fields and possibly other areas.
“So that money could be borrowed at some point to do the work on the fields,” Mr. Hamilton said after the meeting.
He acknowledged, however, that it may be a few years before kids are kicking balls or waving lacrosse sticks around the field. “The way the budget is right now, borrowing that money doesn’t hurt the first year but it hurts three, four or five years down the road,” he said.
Charles B. Allott, executive director of ALT, said the approval of any work on the fields is dependent on the conservation agreement. “There is an approval process,” he said, noting that ALT wold have to look at the town’s plans “sooner rather than later.”
Marshall Huggins of Portsmouth Youth Lacrosse said the group has spent about two years going back and forth with ALT over the requirements for developing the fields. “We’re further along, I think, than (people) think we are,” he said.
One of the requirements, according to council member David Gleason, was that the property’s stone walls be repaired. “Ninety percent of that work has been done by DPW,” Mr. Gleason said.
He cautioned, however, that $500,000 may not be enough to get the job done. “The type of soil there requires a lot of infrastructure,” he said.
Also Monday night, the council voted unanimously to pursue “paperless” meetings for the future in order to cut down on printing costs and other expenses.
Town Administrator John Klimm said the School Committee recently purchased iPads for members’ use which can also be used by council members at their meetings. This would allow members to view and store a meeting’s agenda and all the related backup material electronically, he said.
The move could save “thousands of dollars” on paper and printing, not to mention the man-hours required and the toll the printing takes on the town’s machinery, said Mr. Klimm, noting that about 17 meeting agendas along with related backup material are printed every week.
The move to a paperless format would also benefit the public, he said, pointing out that the town’s new website will soon give residents the ability to download material for each meeting. Currently, residents must trek to Town Hall and ask for printed copies of the handouts.
“As we continue to try to be more transparent and disseminate information on what we do on a regular basis, very few residents have access to get the backup of our meeting agendas,” said Mr. Klimm. “It allows any citizens the same access that you have, our elected officials, to the backup material.”
The new system would still allow the public and council members to get agendas and other material printed out. “I don’t think we want to cut off anybody cold turkey,” said Council President James Seveney.
Mr. Hamilton, however, said he’s in favor of going completely paperless. “Over the past six years I’ve seen a lot of trees killed,” he said.
Update on Anthony House
The council also heard an update from Police Chief Thomas F. Lee on Anthony House, where tenants have complained of a handful of residents making life difficult for them at the federally subsidized apartment complex. The council had to vote first to allow discussion on the item, as it was not on the original agenda.
Chief Lee said that shortly after receiving a petition Jan. 28 signed by residents of Anthony House, he met with about 50 of them at the Middle Road apartment complex. Most of the complaints revolved around one resident who was arrested Jan. 30 for disorderly conduct and maintaining a common nuisance: Gilmore L. Farr, 65.
According to Chief Lee, police responded to Mr. Farr’s apartment last year more than 20 times for complaints having to do with noise, drug use and people visiting at all hours of the night. Two other men who have visited his apartment have also been arrested, one for prostitution and the other on a drug charge, he said.
“Management of the building is working with us and have started eviction proceedings. As you know, an eviction can be a lengthy process,” said the police chief, adding that his department is doing nightly patrols of Anthony House.
Mr. Seveney said he’d like to take the matter up again at a future meeting in case the council wants to take formal action.
Odds and ends
In other business Monday night, the council:
• officially welcomed new Finance/Personnel Director James Lathrop, who had his first day of work Monday. He replaces David Faucher, who retired earlier this year. “Jim Lathrop is our new Dave Faucher,” said Mr. Klimm. “He’s been here a grand total of about seven hours. I’m not sure he knows where the men’s room is.”
• sitting as the Board of License Commissioners, voted unanimously to grant a victualler license to JDDS Enterprises, Inc., doing business as Beluga Frozen Yogurt, 2005 East Main Road.
• appointed Jeanne Smith of 39 Morgan St. to the Open Space Committee.
• approved a charter for the town’s new Joint Task Force on Efficiency in Town Government. Three members each from the Town Council and School Committee serve on the panel, which explores collaborative ways in which services can be shared to save money.
• announced that the Town Council and School Committee will hold a joint meeting at Town Hall Saturday, Feb. 15, to discuss budgetary issues. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. and is not expected to go longer than 90 minutes.