Published in the February 11, 2016 edition


NORTH READING — The Fields Committee recently appointed by the School Committee is about to get some reinforcement in the form of a member from the Board of Selectmen. The board voted unanimously to appoint Stephen O’Leary as Selectmen’s liaison last week.

The committee is charged with raising funds for installing an irrigation system at the two new natural turf fields to be located at the site of the old high school building, which will be a practice field and softball field. There is also a need to find a way to raise funds for public bathrooms for the Arthur Kenney Field,

The field committee was originally planning on raising funds for installing artificial turf on the two new fields but school officials determined the plan was not feasible due to drainage issues.

Selectman Michael Prisco said the committee will be looking at the bathroom issue associated with the fields. The bathroom situation at Kenney Field met the plumbing code requirement for bathrooms before the old high school was torn down, said Selectman Michael Prisco, because of the new high school’s location, that’s no longer the case.

“This committee has to look at a strategy to solve that,” and hopes to obtain a waiver for at least a year – maybe longer if it can demonstrate the town is working on the issue – to provide adequate bathrooms. “But any solution is going to cost the town money,” Prisco said.

If the town ignores the situation, the town could possibly lose the use of the turf field until there are adequate bathrooms that meet code, Prisco said.

A Team Room building was constructed next to the field as part of the high school project but that building only has a couple of bathrooms for each team – home and away – and they’re not open to the public.

Currently, fans at football games, etc., use port-a-potties located near the stands.

Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto explained that before the new high school was built, the turf field was operating under a waiver for the bathroom requirement because the restrooms in the old school were so close. He said the Building Inspector advised the school department to seek a new waiver because conditions have changed.

The turf field itself was transferred to control of the Parks and Recreation Department years ago so that money from the Hillview Enterprise could be used to build the field. The stands at the turf field hold about 1,000 people. “You have a facility that people attend but inadequate bathrooms. That facility currently is under control of Recreation. But even if it was under control of the schools, the problem would be the same.”

It’s a town–school issue because the only land that’s available for bathrooms is on school department land, Prisco elaborated. Perhaps, through the study process, the solution would be for the schools to cede more land to the town as a bathroom location, he suggested.

Gilleberto further explained the previous bathroom waiver was because the old high school was a pre–existing facility and the fact there were bathrooms in the old high school was coincidental. It was the construction of the new team room building that triggered the new requirements, he said.

O’Leary said: “What’s important to me is, if we’re going to look at expanding another turf field and incorporating more stands there, is that Carey Park (the high school baseball field), be put under the auspices of the Enterprise Fund as was the turf field and then Recreation would handle the hooking up.”

O’Leary got the appointment because he’s already the Selectmen’s appointment on the Secondary Schools Building Committee, which is wrapping up details on the project and fields.