Citizens Start Campaign for Override on Miller Field

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

The same people who brought the town together for a new middle/high school are working hard again to bring the town together for a new Miller Field.

Members of the citizens committee “Winthrop is Worth It” gathered again Sunday night to get the momentum up and running behind a debt-exclusion override vote to pay for the new, multi-sport Miller Field, as well as drainage work at Lewis Lake and the neighboring golf course.

Committee member James Fabiano said the group will approach the town council and ask them to place the question on a June ballot.

“They all seem in favor of it,” Fabiano said.

Last week the town council voted down a request to place the project on the April 12 ballot. The council needed a two-thirds vote to place the question on the ballot, but ended up with a 5-4 vote. Councilors Linda Calla, Russ Sanford, Phil Boncore, Paul Varone and Nick DelVento voted to put the question on the ballot. Councilors Heather Engman, Rich Boyagian, James Letterie and Chairman Robert Driscoll Jr. were not ready to put it on the ballot.

The concern among the councilors who voted, “no” was primarily time. They wanted to see more time to vet the project and educate the public. They did not believe six weeks was enough time.

Town Manager James McKenna did receive a base design cost breakdown from the town’s engineering firm. Woodward & Curran gave an opinion of probable construction costs, but the final figures will not be determined until the bid for the job is awarded to a contractor. The estimate at this point is $8.4 million.

Construction could begin in early 2017 and will take about eight months.

DPW Director Steve Calla said the town has received a grant from the Department of Conservation and Recreation to work on the drainage issues. The permitting process has also begun to address the failing tide gates. The town has already spent $200,000 in soil testing and engineering

A few years back the group, “Winthrop is Worth It”, pushed for an $80 million middle/high school that ended up costing taxpayers $42 million. On top of that another $8 million was saved in interest payments through refinancing.

“Two years ago, when the high school was voted on, the estimated interest rate was 4.5 percent going into the project,” Fabiano said. “We got it down to 3.3 percent and saved $8 million.”

He added that the interest rates are still 3.3 percent, “but they won’t stay at that level forever.”

Fabiano also said it makes more sense to do it now rather than later. With 10 people on the committee, most see it as a continuation of the middle/high school project. There had been talk of lumping the two projects together, but it never came to fruision.

“We see this as a continuation of the project,” Fabiano said. “We saved money and the new school is coming on time. It’s going well.”

The area of the project is a filled in salt marsh. In order to make the new multi-sport field it has to be raised up with two to three feet of fill. Some cost savings will also be recognized because North Shore Regional Vocational School will be the ones building the fieldhouse, McKenna said last week.

Anyone interested in getting involved with Winthrop is Worth It can contact Fabiano through the group’s Facebook page.

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