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WMRHS volunteer athletic fields group to propose Phase 3 on Jan. 23


December 07, 2011
WHITEFIELD — The WMRSD school board let it all hang out on Monday night when some of its own members and those of the volunteer athletic fields group discussed a number of misunderstandings, innuendos, and accusations associated with both volunteer and paid efforts to improve the playing fields for Spartan athletes.

A Nov. 21 letter from sportswriter Arlene Allin of Lancaster, who has led the effort to rally volunteer machine operators and engineers to take on improvement projects and to donate materials, sparked the lengthy discussion. It "defies understanding and is totally frustrating" that someone like school board member Gerry Pons of Whitefield would refuse to educate himself on the project, "yet feels free to criticize it and spread false rumors about it, then tries to take over the projects," Allin wrote.

Chairman Greg Odell accused Pons of calling a paid contractor to complain about the quality of his work. Pons, however, said he had absolutely no idea Odell was talking about. He defended his meeting with engineers who offered to give him a better understanding of the project. Pons said that facilities subcommittee chairman Brady had authorized these meetings.

School board member Randy Boggess of Lancaster said that the volunteers exemplified the best of North Country culture by pitching in and working when the weather was right and their machines idle.

Vice chairman Jim Brady of Jefferson said that more had been done by "roll-up-your-sleeves" volunteers than had been done over the years by numerous consultants, who ended up quoting large dollar amounts that voters did not — or could not — support.

Allin said that the next work that needed to be done would be to shim the low spots on the fields and then look for trouble spots where water accumulates. "We began two summers ago," Allin said, noting that the group's attitude was "to drain the swamp no matter how many alligators are biting your back!"

She described the volunteers as both "opportunistic" and "bargain-hunters."

Odell valiantly tried to keep the discussion on track. "Our task is to decide how to move forward," he explained.

In the end, Boggess moved "to empower the volunteer team to propose its next steps — labeled Phase 3 — to improve the condition of the fields in the area of the WMRHS and to bring in budgetary estimates to the Jan. 23 meeting."

The motion passed, 4 to 3. Odell, Brady, Boggess, and Jessica Ryan of Whitefield voted "yes," and Pons, Annette Marquis of Carroll, and Rep. Herb Richardson of Lancaster voted "no."

Richardson said he believed that future efforts and expenditures should be brought before the voters for approval in a separate warrant article.

Both Pons and Marquis explained during earlier discussions that they would like to know the end game, including projected costs, rather than taking a piece-meal approach to improving and expanding the playing fields.

Garnett Hill
Martin Lord Osman
Garnett Hill
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