2005-10-20 / Front Page

Town Council to decide ball field maintenance

By Donna K. Drago

Several groups were represented last week at a meeting to determine the future of Jamestown’s recreational ball fields.

Nearly two dozen people gathered Oct. 12 at Town Hall to make their case for why the fields need some attention.

A group calling themselves the Jamestown Field Improvement Group, which includes parents of both Little League and soccer players, made a presentation on the condition of the fields.

Roland Vigneault, who said he has run Jamestown Baseball for four years, said, “Every season the fields are in deplorable condition.” He went on to list “gopher holes,” holes in the fences and “burrs” on the metal fences as being some of the safety hazards.

Vigneault said the concession stand “is inhabited by non-humans.” Frequent break-ins and vandalism to the building has resulted in broken doors and nonfunctioning restrooms.

When parents do some of the annual clean-up each spring, Vigneault said that part of the process is to “bang the nails back into the wooden bleachers.”

“We found a metal spike” in one of the dugouts this past spring, which Vigneault described by holding his index fingers about 10 inches apart.

Town Councilman Bill Kelly facilitated the newly-formed subcommittee and said he agreed that the fields are “in terrible condition and (had been) allowed to deteriorate over an extended period of time.”

Kelly said he did not expect any decisions to be made at the first meeting of the group, but wanted “to open the doors of dialog between the organizations.” He and two other council members, Barbara Szepatowski and Michael Schnack “are here to listen,” he said.

Anthony Rafanelli, another involved parent, said that every spring “we typically lay out to the rec department what we need,” and “then we do some things on our own.”

A “Green-up Day,” which is done with volunteer labor, is planned each year to get the fields in shape for opening day. Rafanelli described a night last season when middle-school baseball coach Joe Ucci was “out there at night with his truck headlights on” cleaning up the field for a game.

The parents said that they had been raising funds for field improvements, but without knowing who is in charge of the fields, how they are owned, or what the legal rights of the parents would be with regard to the fields. “We can’t raise any more money if we don’t know what we can do,” Vigneault said.

After describing her background and business expertise, Councilwoman Szepatowski said, “I can do the ownership info” to include meets and bounds, mapping and deeds.

“We can do it in two weeks,” Szepatowski assured the group.

Why quick work on the ownership issue is important was explained by parent Chris Crawford, who said that a landscape architecture professor from the University of Rhode Island had been approached, and he said that he would be willing to take on the project with his class for the spring semester. “But the deadline is quickly approaching,” Crawford noted.

“They will work with the major stakeholders and lay out a plan” for field improvements, Crawford said. “It will be a win/win situation for everyone,” he added.

“We need the ownership information to move forward,” Vigneault said.

Councilman Schnack said that the lot on which the ball fields lie is owned by the town of Jamestown, according to the deed.

Kelly said, “The town owns the whole schmear,” but he questioned “whose responsibility is what?”

“The bottom line,” Kelly said, is “these are town assets and we have to get them fixed.”

The discussion continued with additional comments from the Jamestown Soccer Association, which is also advocating for improvements at the Eldred Avenue fields.

Kelly proposed that the parent groups make their case to the entire Town Council at its Oct. 24 meeting.

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