Barrington field fees once had a purpose — not anymore

The town implemented a fee structure in 2005 to pay for capital expenses at the fields, but the special account has been dissolved

Posted 2/21/19

Facing a shortage of fields and substandard conditions at many fields, town officials proposed an increase to local field fees. The money raised, said town officials, would be used to help improve …

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Barrington field fees once had a purpose — not anymore

The town implemented a fee structure in 2005 to pay for capital expenses at the fields, but the special account has been dissolved

Posted

Facing a shortage of fields and substandard conditions at many fields, town officials proposed an increase to local field fees. The money raised, said town officials, would be used to help improve Barrington's athletic fields.

Does this sound familiar?

It should. While the above scenario could describe the current situation in Barrington, it is actually taken directly from news reports and town council meeting minutes from 2005.

Thirteen years ago, Barrington Town Council members voted unanimously to approve a field fee increase. The money collected — $10 per player, per sport — was kept in a special account dedicated to making field improvements. In addition, town officials also deposited $20,000 annually from cell tower lease agreements into the same account.

But somewhere between 2005 and today, the field maintenance account was dissolved and the money collected from the leagues was deposited into the town's general fund. It is not clear who ordered the account to be dissolved, and current Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha said he had never heard of the field maintenance account. He added that the town still collects money from cell phone tower lease agreements.

Now town officials are poised to again raise field use fees and the town manager is planning to propose an annual deposit of $25,000 into the capital improvement program, dedicated for "athletic field renovation and maintenance."

Critics are questioning the potential impact of a field fee increase and are asking the town to provide a clear vision for the future of athletic fields in Barrington. The Barrington Town Council is set to vote on the proposed field fee increase at its meeting on March 4.

Turf talk

The 2005 field fee increase stemmed from a public outcry over Barrington's athletic fields. Leaders of youth sports organizations in Barrington — Little League, soccer, lacrosse and football — said there was just not enough athletic fields in Barrington. The sports league leaders said that the lack of fields had led to overuse of all fields and contributed to the poor field conditions.

That is a dialogue that was echoed at the town council's fields workshop earlier this month. Some residents called for the construction of one or more artificial turf fields in town. They said the artificial turf fields can be used more and lighten the load for the natural grass fields. 

Back in 2005, a group of residents were also calling for artificial turf. At that time, council members were also interested in purchasing the Haines Park property from the state. Acquisition of the park would give the town complete control over how the land, including the possible realignment and renovation of the athletic fields.

The town's potential purchase of the park stalled, however, when a group of residents and conservation commission members opposed the initiative. 

Then and now

• Then: In 2005, the Barrington Park and Recreation Commission unanimously approves a recommendation to the council that youth sports leagues in Barrington be assessed an increased field fee. The sports leagues were not specifically invited to that meeting.

• Now: In Aug. 2018, the Barrington Park and Recreation Commission tell the town manager that they believe youth sports leagues might be willing to pay more for field maintenance.

• Then: In 2005, the town's then-recreation director Michael Raffa surveys youth sports leagues in the East Bay and West Bay and finds that other town's leagues were not charged fees. The leagues in other towns, he said, help carry out some of the field maintenance.

• Now: A survey of recreation departments across the state reveals that other town's leagues are not charged field fees. 

• Then: In 2005, the Barrington Park and Recreation Commission completes a 21-page report about the condition of fields in town. The commission later drafts a list of town field improvement projects.

• Now: The commission yields no report about the condition of local fields. The town manager shares a four-page report that includes information about the cost of maintaining athletic fields in town, the amount of money collected from youth sports leagues through the current field fees, and plans for an annual deposit of $25,000 from the town to help improve athletic fields. 

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