RHAM board takes up issue of athletic fields

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Mon., Aug. 26, 2013
Many of the RHAM fields were recently refurbished by a group of community volunteers. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Many of the RHAM fields were recently refurbished by a group of community volunteers. Photos by Melanie Savage.

At a special meeting on Aug. 20, the RHAM Board of Education discussed an ongoing concern regarding the condition of the athletic fields at the middle/high school. Joseph O’Connor, who helped to organize a community clean-up weekend at the school, provided a report to the board regarding the results of the effort.

O’Connor reported that 131 people volunteered their time on Saturday, Aug. 3, with 72 volunteers showing up the following day. The towns of Hebron and Marlborough had contributed equipment, and several local contractors had also donated their services.  O’Connor said that volunteers had accomplished many of the tasks identified by Director of Facilities Mike Ceresa, sports coaches, parents and others.

Jason Yerke, a Hebron landscaper, said that he and other contractors had removed approximately 40 yards of invasive growth from the site. “It should never have gotten to that level,” he said.

Several ballfields had been refurbished, but volunteers still hoped to tackle another field in the near future. Other outstanding projects identified by the group included: weeding of a mulch strip fronting Wall Street; repairing of ruts arising from parking during graduation; poison ivy near the high school entrance; and weeding near the side entrance of the middle school gym. O’Connor referred to a grass area near the drop-off that wasn’t being adequately maintained. “It’s an eyesore and we have to look at it,” he said. “I have to look at it every day when I drop my kids off.”

Ceresa talked about the difficulty of having only one landscaper available to maintain the entire RHAM campus, and noted that he had repeatedly requested money to fund additional manpower. He also re-emphasized the point that pesticides cannot be used on the RHAM fields, due to state legislation. This resulted in many hours of manpower needing to be devoted to manually removing weeds.

Board members thanked volunteers for their efforts. “It’s incredible where we’ve come,” said Kevin Williams, noting that the fields impacted the aesthetics of the campus in addition to the athletics programs.

Board member Debra Dee suggested that the volunteers would need to support the allocation of additional funds to improve the care of the facilities. At budget time, “I hope you guys will help get the vote out,” said Dee.

“That is part of our package,” said O’Connor, noting that Hebron residents pay a lot of taxes. “But I know a lot of us are willing to give a little more,” he said.

Volunteer Vin Colonna referred to an initial reluctance on the part of the unions to have volunteers hold a work weekend at RHAM. He said that previous volunteer efforts at town fields had resulted in no red tape. “And there are unions there, too,” said Colonna. “From a public standpoint, I’m not sure why this was such a big deal,” he added.

The volunteers suggested that they would like to make similar clean-up days a regular event. “We want to put some pillars up to be cooperative,” said O’Connor. There are a group of people who are willing to help eliminate some of the problems identified by athletic coaches, said O’Connor, adding that all groups should be willing to work cooperatively. “We all need to do a better job of communicating,” he said.

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