Athol High School track proposal endorsed by Athol School board

  • Lawn sprinklers water the lush fields at the football field at Athol High School. A plan to improve the school track was endorsed by the School Committee recently. Athol Daily News/Deborrah Porter

  • Sprinklers water the lush fields at the football field at Athol High School. A plan to improve the school track was endorsed by the School Committee recently. Athol Daily News/Deborrah Porter

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 6/24/2019 10:45:19 PM
Modified: 6/25/2019 1:18:01 PM

ATHOL – At last week’s meeting of the Athol Royalston Regional School Committee, Chairman Lee Chauvette said, “For the last year or so, we’ve been talking about a potential project at Athol High School to take care of the track. What we neglected to do, and this came to our attention through the town meeting process this year, both Athol and Royalston pointed out the school committee has never taken a formal vote to support that project.”

As a result, consideration of the approximately $1.4 million project had been placed on the committee’s agenda. Chauvette pointed out that both towns had initially planned to vote on the proposal at their respective annual town meetings but, because the committee had not acted, each community decided to withhold judgement until this fall.

In response to an inquiry from committee member Charles Pretti, district Business Manager Lynn Bassett said Royalston’s share of the total cost would amount to about $140,000.

“I support this very much.” said Pretti. “I think every community should have a good working track facility. My reservations are the town of Royalston’s ability to pay for it. There are some things in the pipeline in the future that are going to challenge the town fiscally, so it could become an issue – and I hope it doesn’t.”

“I have similar reservations,” added committee member Carla Rabinowitz. “Royalston’s town meeting has just passed an override – it hasn’t gone to the voters yet. We’re going to be coming back to the voters for another override just to keep the town functioning, basically just paying our bills. I know the district doesn’t have a lot of extra money to pay for things like a new fourth-grade teacher, for instance – things that are seriously needed. I don’t know whether Athol would ever consider an override to pay for those needs.”

“It worries me,” she continued, “that this is going to be a debt exclusion which will take away from the voters’ willingness to pass overrides for less glamorous things.”

Committee member Nancy Melbourne pointed out that funds committed to the track would be paid out over a 10-year period.

“This is not something we have to come up with immediately,” she said. “It’ll be paid for over a 10 years – or it could be over 20-years, depending on what is voted for. Hopefully, Royalston will consider it since the district has just spent $60,000 – or is about to – to put a water system into Royalston Community School. The district is stepping up to the place; I’m hoping the town will also.”

Chauvette said he had been in discussions with Christine Long, Chair of Royalston’s Select Board, as well as other officials in Royalston, “and she repeatedly corrected me about the fact that Royalston needs to override this money.”

“She said it’s available from other sources,” added Chauvette, “just so you know. Again, that’s according to Chris. I kept saying ‘override,’ and she said, ‘No, we’re not using override money.’”

The vote to endorse the track project was unanimous.

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