Bedford, like most towns, has struggled in recent years to fill town committee vacancies. But when the call came for volunteers for a temporary task force to perform a comprehensive recreation field study, 13 citizens eagerly stepped forward to serve. The decision to create this ad hoc group followed a contentious and narrowly defeated synthetic turf article at Annual Town Meeting.
Monday night, the Selectmen interviewed eight of the thirteen candidates and, ultimately, appointed all eight to serve. Of the other five applicants, who were not in attendance, three had previously made known their inability to attend the meeting and two were unaccounted for. At the request of the applicants present, the Selectmen reconsidered their original limit of five members, expanding the committee to nine, leaving space available for one more applicant, who will be chosen from among the remaining candidates once they have been interviewed.
The committee’s charge has six parts:
To produce a comprehensive inventory of current playing fields, categorized by size and sport, and including current playing condition; to compare Bedford to other local municipalities in terms of field inventory, population served, policies for usage, and sources of financial support (such as user fees/tax levy); to reconcile the field inventory with current demand by season and determine whether a backlog exists; if such is the case, to project a five-year plan, addressing possible sites for either new or reconditioned playing fields; to provide applicable cost estimates; to research health and safety issues associated with synthetic turf.
The timeline for this work being short, the group is expected to meet intensively over the summer and make a final report to the Selectmen in the fall. Because of the time constraints, all eight present were asked to commit to a demanding meeting schedule through July and August.
The candidates each introduced themselves, described their backgrounds and experience, and explained why they want to serve on the committee. In addition, the Selectmen asked the applicants several other questions, including how each might approach the six diverse charges they’ve been asked to confront; how to address what might be characterized as a level of animosity between field users (coaches and players) and field maintainers (DPW); and whether or not the town should be expected to provide unlimited field accommodations for any and all sports and field users.
Those named to the committee on Monday night were: Tara Capobianco, Elizabeth Cowles, Jim Harrington, Michael Hayes, Jim Lespasio, David Powell, David Sukoff and Ron Taylor. In the interest of time, it was decided that so long as the committee can gather a quorum of five, the group can begin to meet before the ninth member has been appointed.
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