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Neighbors raise concerns about plans for Hingham High field

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 14, 2012 05:06 PM

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In the most ambitious visions, the renovated athletic stadium at Hingham High will boast a snack shop, a press box, expanded seating, lights, and artificial turf.

But if the high school's neighbors have their way, those plans will be pared down significantly.

“I think we definitely need to rehab the fields … But the concern is it’s right in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” said Beth Rockoff, who lives on Union Street. “The noise issue, and the parking, for safety purposes, are a real issue for the neighborhood, especially at night. If you put in the lights, you have a whole new usage that isn’t presently there.”

The plans also call for a 2,300-seat stadium, with 20 bathrooms, taking up more open space, Rockoff said. Furthermore, the overall cost of the project is projected to be upwards of $4 million, a bill that concerns some townspeople.

Rockoff isn’t alone in her scrutiny of the plans. Residents attended a selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday night to discuss their issues, as well as what is required for the town to build this facility under the present bylaws.

While nothing was decided on Tuesday, neighbors did request an alternative plan to be presented to next spring'sTown Meeting, when school officials will request funding for the project.

“The neighborhood would like to put together a proposal that would provide adequate fields that are drained properly and rehab them as we’ve done the track and tennis courts so they are quality fields...and comply with Title IX [federal law barring sexual discrimiantion], but we don’t feel we need the Taj Mahal,” Rockoff said.

According to Selectman Bruce Rabuffo, the Planning Board will begin a review on Dec. 3 to vet some of these issues, such as lights, turf, and bathrooms.

But one major component, the cost, has yet to be determined.

“It’s also, how does this get paid for?” Rabuffo said. “Selectmen have not discussed how we pay for the fields and all its components.”

The School Committee is still trying to nail down a plan that would be basis for setting a cost. And while the committee is cutting items they don’t need, the estimated cost is still higher than initially anticipated, said Caryl Falvey, chairwoman of the School Committee.

She said the cost expanded from the first estimate because of the such factors as the addition of parking and the decision to have 10 bathroom each for boys and girls.

"We will take a look at everything and see if we can bring [the cost] down a bit,” Falvey said.

To pay for it all, the committee has applied for $1.5 million in Community Preservation Committee funding for part of the project and is also applying for grants.

The remainder is expected to be a mix of the town funds and private donations, sayd Falvey.

“We’ve always said we would look for private/public partnership, so we’re starting those discussions,” she said.

As for neighbors’ concerns, Falvey said they are being taken into account. Parking should be greatly improved with the addition of a walkway, and concerns over sound would be addressed during discussions of how the facilities will be used.

In the meantime, the School Committee will meet on Thursday to go over sound studies conducted at recent football games.

“We will hear about how sound has improved … and hopefully learn more about what new technology will bring us,” Falvey said. “Then we can start to develop a good usage policy, so we can understand what effects a PA system would have on the neighborhood.”

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