Tensions over use of athletic facilities continue as Glocester council looks at cost for field upkeep


GLOCESTER – The Glocester Town Council is investigating the cost of upkeep for baseball fields in town, particularly those used by Foster-Glocester Regional Schools, which councilors note have been charging residents for use of district facilities.

“They cost money to maintain,” said Councilor Walter Steere. “We should probably be taking a look at what it costs to maintain these fields. What would it cost during baseball season, for example? And that’s just one. I don’t know if we have to look at other locations.”

He added that the Little League makes use of the fields, but they also help with the upkeep and maintenance of those fields.

“They have put a lot of sweat into it in the past,” said Steere. “They put money into working on that field. Going forward you can’t expect them to do it all the time. How much does it cost to maintain those fields? And is there a reasonable fee we should attach to that?”

“I completely agree we should kind of wrap our brain around what we spend over there,” agreed Council Vice President Stephen Arnold. “The DPW does a fair amount of work over there, as well as volunteers.”

Arnold added the council should again ask the regional school committee to look at the fees they are charging for the use of facilities at the high school. Currently, adult coed recreational basketball and volleyball programs are charged $75 an hour.

The school system was originally charging the town $200 last year for the use of the coed basketball and volleyball programs, but agreed to waive part of that fee. However, they continue to charge $75 an hour for each time the indoor courts are used to pay for a custodian. Previously, even before Robert Shields took over as recreation director, residents were never charged for using the facilities. Steere said recreation teams made up of residents have been playing, but not paying, for more than 50 years at the regional schools.

“I’d still like to encourage them to look at their fees for their facilities before we get into a tit for tat kind of deal,” said Arnold.  “I am still disappointed on where they landed there, but this certainly will help further the conversation with the group.”

Steere had previously drafted a letter to the committee asking them to reconsider charging residents for use of a facility, which he noted, the town bought and pay for. The council approved sending the letter to the committee, and Shields later told the Council that the committee read it, but ignored it. They refused to waive the fee for use of the facility, he said.

The letter stated in part that, “We appreciate that some fees may have already been waived for these programs; however, we are concerned that our residents are participating in a town funded recreational activity and are paying any fee for the use of a facility that is currently funded through their tax dollars.”

“We would appreciate an explanation for the reasoning behind the decision and ask if the charging of fees for the town recreation program can and will be reconsidered,” it stated.

“Actually, I am disappointed that we sent them a written request, and they haven’t responded to us,” said Steere. “I know they responded to Bob Shields, but we didn’t get a letter back explaining their position.”

Council President William Worthy suggested getting the cost for maintenance of the fields, etc. first, then having a conversation with the committee. Worthy noted this could present a chance for the committee to reevaluate the idea of charging residents for use of the facilities.

“We can partner,” responded Arnold, “But this is right pocket, left pocket serving the same taxpayer.”

“Us charging them is the same thing they are doing to us,” said Councilor Jonathan Burlingame. “I don’t know that it accomplishes anything.”

“I don’t know either, but it may accomplish a further dialogue of what are we doing here,” Arnold replied. “We’re one team here, one community.”

Steere agreed, but added that it would still be a good idea to find out what it costs to maintain recreational areas in town.

“We should understand how much it is actually costing us,” said Steere.

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