Spaulding football lighting project is short of goal
By David Delcore
Staff Writer | July 02,2013
BARRE — A City Council-imposed deadline involving plans to light the football field at Spaulding High School went by Monday with school boosters coming up well short of matching the $90,000 councilors tentatively agreed to commit to the long-discussed project.
That’s a good question, according to Mayor Thomas Lauzon, who said the simplest solution would be to follow through on the council’s match-it-or-lose-it directive: Undesignate the $90,000 members earmarked for the lighting project and call it a day.
“That is the one that actually makes the most sense … but it would cause the most hard feelings,” he said, acknowledging the efforts of school boosters, like Spaulding School Board member Giuliano Cecchinelli, who have managed to raise roughly $60,000 toward the $180,000 lighting project in a little less than a year.
“I think they’ve done a fantastic job moving the project along,” Lauzon said.
An extension is one option, according to Lauzon, who said he is eager to discuss others with the Spaulding board and would like to think it’s still possible for the Crimson Tide football team to be playing some of this year’s home games on Friday or Saturday nights under the lights.
Lauzon said he has spoken quietly to council members and believes a majority would entertain an extension or an alternative to essentially match the roughly $60,000 that was pledged by the July 1 deadline and leave it to school officials to decide how to come up with the remaining money for the project.
According to Lauzon, that approach isn’t completely fair to city taxpayers but is a compromise he’s willing to entertain in the interest of advancing what he views as an important community project.
“I just want to get this field lit,” he said. “I’d like to see it lit this fall.”
Last year a divided council agreed to earmark $90,000 of the money that Barre businessman Charlie Semprebon left the city at his death in 2009 to cover half of the projected cost of the lighting project.
“We could have used … (that money) for a lot of things, but we chose to use it to cover 50 percent of lighting the (football) field,” he said.
The caveat, at the time, was that Barre Town — the city’s partner in the Spaulding district — would be responsible for coming up with the other half.
Lauzon said he is willing to revisit that even if it means crediting all of the fundraising pledges to the town, matching that amount with Semprebon money and treating the balance — roughly $60,000 — as a shared expense of the local union high school.
Under that scenario, Lauzon said, taxpayers in Barre and Barre Town would essentially split one-third of the cost of lighting the football field.
“Any way you cut it, city and town residents get a fantastic value,” he said. “When was the last time you did a $200,000 capital project and had two-thirds of it be free?”
Before the council makes any decisions, Lauzon said he would like to consult the Spaulding board and get a sense of what its members are thinking.
“At some point we have to have a discussion,” he said.
Lauzon said he would be reaching out to Norma Malone, chairwoman of the Spaulding board, in hopes of arranging a conversation on the subject, while acknowledging an initial overture last year was awkward at best.
It was every bit of that as Lauzon’s call for a joint meeting of the City Council, the Spaulding board and the Barre Town Select Board last fall devolved into public name-calling and finger-pointing among the mayor, Malone and then-Select Board Chairman Jeff Blow.
Lauzon said he is optimistic the conversation will be more focused now that the funding gap is more clearly defined.
“Hopefully we can all keep our eye on the ball and say: ‘Look, this is a great thing,’ and do whatever is necessary to make it happen,” he said.