Barrington voters may face two field questions this fall

First question: Should town install synthetic turf at BMS?

By Josh Bickford
Posted 6/18/24

Voters in November will determine whether to install a synthetic turf athletic field at Barrington Middle School.

Members of the Barrington Town Council recently approved the specific question …

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Barrington voters may face two field questions this fall

First question: Should town install synthetic turf at BMS?

Posted

Voters in November will determine whether to install a synthetic turf athletic field at Barrington Middle School.

Members of the Barrington Town Council recently approved the specific question for the November ballot regarding synthetic turf fields at Barrington Middle School. It reads: “Shall the town be authorized to utilize the funds appropriated by the elector at the Financial Town Meeting on May 22, 2024, to install synthetic turf athletic field(s) at Barrington Middle School?”

The Council also voted 5-0 to have the town solicitor draft a more general question regarding athletic field improvements in Barrington. Details of that question, including whether to include it on the November ballot, will be discussed at the Council’s meeting on July 22. 

The November ballot question (or questions) will serve as a defining moment for Councilor Rob Humm’s ongoing effort to improve athletic fields in Barrington. It will also offer the community an opportunity to officially weigh in on the synthetic turf fields determination. Up until this point, the public has never had a chance to vote on the topic. 

Council member Braxton Cloutier said he wanted to put the synthetic turf fields issue to voters, and try to put the issue to bed. Cloutier said the town needs to continue to move forward with the fields. 

“We all agree that it should go to voters,” Cloutier said. 

Initially, the Council considered holding off on putting any questions on the November ballot, but Cloutier said the synthetic turf fields proposal for the middle school has to go to voters. 

The plan for synthetic turf fields at BMS has been approved by the Town Council and School Committee; those two groups still need to sign a written agreement finalizing details of the project. Council Vice President Humm said the proposal calls for the school teams to use the fields from the close of school (around 3:15) until 5:30 p.m. He said from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., the field will be available to youth sports programs in town. And the school teams will have access to the fields after 8:30 p.m. 

Humm said the important aspect of the agreement is that the new synthetic turf fields will serve everyone’s needs in town. 

Council President Carl Kustell said the School Committee and Town Council are not quite to the point of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s of the agreement, “but we’re pretty close.”

Second ballot question

There were plenty of different opinions at the recent Town Council meeting when it came to discussing the ballot questions. 

Dan O’Mahoney said he believes voters should be presented with two questions. He said one question should ask if residents want to spend money on synthetic turf fields, while a second should ask if residents want to spend money on improvements to town fields, generally. 

Kevin Fitta said voters need to have more options and information when they cast their ballots. He said residents have approved $4.5 million for field improvements but many voters do not know what other work is possible if the synthetic turf proposal at the middle school is defeated.

“I think it would be helpful to know what the options are when we vote in November,” Fitta said. 

Mike Seward, the chairman of the Barrington Park and Recreation Commission, said offering voters a broader, more general question will create confusion. He said officials have developed the Barrington Middle School plan because there were problems with the other proposed locations: Neighbors pushed back on the redevelopment of synthetic turf fields at Chianese Field, and St. Andrew’s Farm Field cannot have lights because of a prior agreement.

There is really no other place, Seward said.

Gail Read lives in the Chianese Field neighborhood and opposed the earlier plan to install synthetic turf atop the two capped landfill fields. At the Council meeting on June 3, Read questioned the idea of adding a second, broader question. 

“By saying that you want to put it (turf) some place else is an admission that you’re going back to square one,” she said. 

Humm explained that the synthetic turf fields proposal for the middle school solves the problem of overused athletic fields all across town. He said synthetic turf fields will allow the town to rest the natural grass fields. 

Councilor Kate Berard said she supported an open-ended question, and that much of the discussion hinges on whether residents approve the middle school question this November.

BMS or BHS?

Buckle up. Tom Rimoshytus offered that warning to Council members before he started talking during the June 3 meeting. Rimoshytus then congratulated the Town Council for working with the School Committee on the BMS synthetic turf fields proposal. 

“They’re always want, want, want, want, and they never give,” he said of the School Committee.

Rimoshytus then told Town Council members they should consider ordering the School Committee to come up with its own field maintenance crew and facilities crew if they decide to reject the middle school synthetic turf fields proposal. 

Maura McCrann spoke after Rimoshytus. The wife of Barrington School Committee Chairman Patrick McCrann said she would like to see a broader fields improvement question offered to voters. McCrann said that while Barrington High School Director of Athletics George Finn supports a synthetic turf field, he said it would not be particularly helpful to BHS student-athletes if it is located at the middle school. McCrann said supporting private youth sports leagues above school teams was a concern. She said the schools were not being adversarial, just trying to do what is right for their students. 

Rob Humm pushed back on some of McCrann’s message. He said he disagreed with McCrann’s comments about Finn. Humm said Finn supports the middle school proposal. He also said the usage time for the synthetic turf fields at BMS could be flexible. 

Humm encouraged the School Committee to improve Victory Field, but not at the expense of the middle school project. 

On June 6, the Barrington School Committee shared a plan to renovate Victory Field with a multi-sport synthetic turf surface, new track and new lighting. School Committee members said they would use money from the district’s capital reserve account to pay for the Victory Field work.

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