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Council approves creation of master plan for school track

Date: 10/18/2013

By Carley Dangona

AGAWAM – After years of degradation and months of research, the next step in renovating the track at Agawam High School has been taken.

At its meeting on Oct. 9, the City Council approved a resolution to appropriate $20,000 of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds for the creation of a master plan to rehabilitate and restore the school’s track and field facility. No estimated cost has been proposed because the scope has not been defined.

“I’m very excited that the track resolution passed,” Mayor Richard Cohen said. “Creating a master plan is the first step in making this project a reality.”

Cohen sponsored the resolution, but it was made at the recommendation of the Agawam Track Exploratory Committee who first proposed the notion of using CPA money and that determined a master plan was the first step in moving the project forward.

The CPA defines recreational use as “active or passive recreational use including, but not limited to, the use of land for community gardens, trails, and noncommercial youth and adult sports, and the use of land as a park, playground or athletic field.”

If the final design includes artificial grass for the field, other funding will be required since CPA funds are not to be used for the purchase of artificial turf for athletic fields, according to the CPA website.

When asked an estimated timeline for the project, Cohen said “yesterday,” referring to the fact that the quest to restore the facility formally started in 2006. He noted however, that the goal is to do the project “right” and not to rush the job.

Cohen’s goal is to have the design completed this winter and to submit a request for proposals have in December of 2014. The mayor also said he signed the appropriation contract the day after the council approved the motion.

The mayor said community input from residents, the School Department and the City Council is vital to the renovation’s success.

“I want the facility to be a showplace, but I want to be mindful of taxpayers’ money. I hope they [the council] will support it when we go to bond the project,” Cohen said.

Milone & MacBroom Inc. of Springfield has already submitted a letter of interest in completing the master plan, including a proposal defining how the company will tailor its scope of services to meet the needs of the town.

A second resolution passed at the meeting was TR-2013-30 that will enable the town to enter “into a memorandum of understanding for emergency transportation” with the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA).

The motion was initially introduced in May, but was put on hold due to some councilor’s concerns about cost. The contract is will provide emergency shuttles for large capacity areas such as the Agawam Senior Center or the schools.

Cohen noted that the item was passed with “nothing changed.”

The contract states, “It is understood that the PVTA will be reimbursed for costs incurred in response to an actual emergency or an exercise. In the event of an exercise, the PVTA will provide Agawam with an estimate of the costs in advance for budgeting purposes.”

It continues, “Costs will be billed at rates to be mutually agreed upon by the PVTA and Agawam and attached to this agreement for the initial period of the agreement. Upon request, the PVTA will provide Agawam with a breakdown of costs incurred in an emergency or exercise, in order to process the request for reimbursement and such funds are subject to appropriation by Agawam.”

In an earlier interview with Reminder Publications, Chet Nicora Jr., Agawam Office of Emergency Management director said to his knowledge other communities, such as Springfield, that have this type of agreement in place and have not been charged by the PVTA for emergency services.