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Barrington officials tap field fund for other projects

Council approves fund name change, opens door for wider range of projects

By Josh Bickford
Posted 8/3/20

The Barrington Town Council approved a name change for an account, allowing town officials to use the money in that account for additional purposes.

The account had been called the "Athletic Field …

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Barrington officials tap field fund for other projects

Council approves fund name change, opens door for wider range of projects

Posted

The Barrington Town Council approved a name change for an account, opening the door for town officials to use the money in that account for additional purposes.

The account had been called the "Athletic Field Maintenance Fund," but at the July 27 council meeting, officials voted 5-0 to change the account's name to the "Parks, Trails and Field Maintenance Fund."

That means money that had been earmarked specifically for athletic fields can now be used for a variety of other work, including improvements at Walker Farm and Police Cove.

Council members spent less than 10 minutes discussing the account name change before voting to approve it.

Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha said the fund gets most of its money from companies that lease space on town-owned cell towers. The fund also gets annual injections of revenue from the town's youth sports leagues, which must pay per-player field use fees.

According to a memo from Planning, Building and Resiliency Department Director Philip Hervey, the account received $145,245 from cell tower lease payments in 2019, as well as $8,680 from youth soccer leagues, $2,780 from youth lacrosse, $1,445 from youth football, $7,125 from youth baseball and softball, and $175 from cross country or road races. It received an additional $4,655 from "other sources" for a total revenue of $170,105.

By approving the account name change, it allows town officials to use money in that account for purposes outside of athletic field maintenance, including a Hampden Meadows Greenbelt trail enhancement project.

So, does that mean the money paid by youth sports leagues could be used for purposes outside of athletic field maintenance?

Mr. Cunha said that is not likely — he said that maintenance of athletic fields in Barrington far exceeds the amount of money collected by the town from the youth sports leagues.

The memo from Mr. Hervey shows that officials reportedly spent $30,606 on baseball and softball fields; $18,783 on soccer fields; $1,434 on lacrosse; and $35,839 on "other." It also includes $29,155 spent on school athletic fields and $1,176 on Kids Kove playground.

The town estimated the 2019 expenditures from the Athletic Field Maintenance Fund at $116,994.74.

Trails projects

Town officials already have plans for the money in the newly named "Parks, Trails and Field Maintenance Fund."

According to Mr. Hervey's memo, the Open Space Committee has identified a project to improve the Hampden Meadows Greenbelt trail, which runs from Kent Street to Linden Road.

"The work requires preparation of a plan for a RIDEM (RI Department of Environmental Management) permit. Construction will involve fixing numerous wet sections, through regrading, adding gravel and installing drainage pipe in several areas," stated the memo.

The improvement project is estimated to cost $15,000.

Officials are also looking to make changes at some newly-acquired open space on Sowams Road. The plan is to build a gravel parking lot and add walking trails.

The memo stated that money in the account will also allow the town to "tackle trail projects that cannot be handled by volunteers – such as removing downed or leaning trees blocking paths or creating safety concerns, improving trail heads, improving trail surfaces, extending bridges across wet areas, and covering the cost of plan and permit application preparation fees."

Some of that work has been covered by the Parks and Trails Capital Reserve account in the past; its annual budget in recent years has been around $25,000 or $30,000. The current balance in that account is $49,797.

"This funding may be needed to cover the cost of large projects such as the Walker Farm recreation improvement project and the Police Cove transient dock project," stated the memo.

"Grants will help cover most of the construction cost of both projects, but Town funds will be required at a minimum for the local share of each grant."

As of July 15, the newly-named "Parks, Trails and Field Maintenance Fund" had an unspent balance of $395,520.

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