Published in the July 21, 2016 edition


NORTH READING — The town’s Athletic Fields and Facilities Committee needs to raise more than $50,000 to proceed with plans for installing irrigation and sod on the new fields at the high school.

Recently, the AFFC put out bids for irrigation and sod on the town’s new fields on the lower portion of the new high school property, the future varsity softball and all purpose fields. Although 13 companies expressed interest the job, only two submitted bids and those proposals were for $148,000 and $178,000 – far above the $97,000 balance the AFC has on hand.

Both bids have been rejected, said committee Chairman Mel Webster, because of a lack of funds. After a brainstorming session last Tuesday night, the committee decided to recalculate their options.

Parks Director Marty Tilton said the bids came in higher than expected partly because of the timing. All the contractors are busy at this time, he said, and the summer time frame the committee wanted – this summer – came in the middle of their busiest time. “They had all their jobs scheduled for the summer and they were trying to fit us in,” Webster agreed. This causes the price to go up.

“This might have been a blessing. With the heat and drought this summer we would have been asking for trouble. When you sod, you need to be able to soak it and we wouldn’t have been able to do that,” said Tilton.

Webster recommended, and the committee seriously discussed, going back out to bid with the goal of having the project done in September but to also get two bids: one for the irrigation only and one for the entire project. That way, at least the irrigation can be installed if the committee needs to go back out and raise extra money over the fall and winter to complete the project by having sod installed.

It was decided to check first with School Department Business Manager Michael Connelly on whether the project components can be bid out separately in this way and to also inform all the stakeholders, including the various town sports leagues, as to what’s being contemplated.

Webster said other options would be to go out to bid for irrigation and hydroseed, (which he doesn’t support) or to just let it sit there, which no one supports.

Tilton said there are possibilities that the cost of the irrigation can be “tweaked,” but he wasn’t sure how much can be saved.

“Safely, we need $50,000,” Webster said. “If we got $25,000, we’re in the ball park.”

“We have to go back out to bid. The question is whether it’s the whole project or do we bid on the whole project or just on irrigation only,” he said. “That way, we have enough money for irrigation and we could raise the money over the winter and do the sod in the spring.”

How to raise the additional money? The committee is contemplating an appeal to local businesses as well as a sponsorship arrangement similar to banners on the Kenney Turf Field.

In any event, the all purpose field won’t be ready this coming fall.

No votes were taken Tuesday night until the committee has a chance to hear feedback from all of the athletic groups. The committee’s next meeting is Aug. 9, which is about the time they’d like to put the project out for bid the second time.