A committee, consisting of Rosemarie Cipriano, School Committee Member; Angelo Mencucci, Facilities Director; Chris Coderre, Athletic Director; Dan Kelly, High School Principal; David Russas, Asset Management Commission; Mark Gilchrist, Coach; Joseph Bennett, Coach; Bob Caine, Town Recreation Director; and Judy Paolucci, Superintendent; has been meeting for the past 18 months with the goal of assessing athletic facilities needs and planning for improvements. The mission of the Smithfield Athletic Facilities Committee is to develop a master plan for maintenance and renovations of town and school fields and facilities used for athletic teams to ensure safety and asset protection.
The group has visually surveyed fields and courts to assess conditions, discussed options for projects, applied for grants, sought professional input for the track and football field, debated the benefits and challenges of well and town water for irrigation, and put out an RFP for baseball dugouts and fencing.
The replacement of the backstop fencing for the baseball field is on the list of capital projects approved by RIDE. This list of approved projects includes items that extend beyond the fiscal ability of the town to support but this doesn’t mean the list is simply a “Christmas list to Santa.” Instead, it is vitally important for districts to include any and all potential projects, since only those projects listed may be reimbursed through state housing aid.
The booster group has had fundraisers over the past few years to raise funds for the replacement of the dugouts, which we recognized as a need through our assessment of school fields. Understanding the need to complete the project up to code and for the long term, we took the lead on the project to ensure that specifications would be in the hands of professionals. It made sense to combine the backstop project with the dugout project and move forward with improvements for this field. Planning must be combined with action and biting off one project each year will lead us closer to our goal of improving athletic facilities.
Research was done to determine potential costs. We asked for estimates from firms from the state bid list as well as from a firm that had previously been consulted by the baseball boosters. The costs varied, and since the lowest cost came from a firm not on the bid list, we thought it most prudent to go out to bid ourselves, rather than picking a firm from this list, as is a legal option. This brought us to the development of an RFP, which was approved by the Town Council in December. Proposals are due next week.
The Athletic Facilities Capital Committee is a great example of a team of school employees, town employees, elected officials, and volunteers working together on goal-oriented projects. Working at solutions and supporting each other’s work can be challenging at times. My hope for Smithfield is a unified team that works for the improvement of all town services in the most efficient manner as possible. ~JP