ADAMS, Mass. — Town officials plan to put an end to the confusion of who should pay for the $15,000 Valley Street fields irrigation system that was installed last year.
Three youth leagues approached the town nearly two years ago over the condition of the fields, which had been used by the high school during its renovation. The leagues had offered to raise money toward the project, with the town taking over future maintenance.
The full amount was put in the fiscal 2014 budget and passed at town meeting last year.
But only funds from one league have so far been collected. The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday was wondering whether it should attempt to retrieve funds form the other leagues or return the one uncashed check and pick up all the expenses.
Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said it had been critical to write the full installation into this year’s budget because the project needed to be done in a timely matter so the field would be ready for use.
"We put the full amount into the budget so we would have the funds available on July 1, in order to time it properly, so the field would have a few months of sun and warm weather so it could regenerate the way it was supposed to," Butler said.
Butler put the $15,000 in the budget after consulting with the Parks Commission about the costs. He added that this was all formalized after the Board of Selectmen voted on it.
It was agreed that the leagues pay half, said Butler, and the board voted to communicate with the leagues in order to get the funds. However, this communication never happened.
"I think the Board of Selectmen took a vote that they were going to send a communication to the leagues asking them to pay half, and I don’t know who sent that communication from the Board of Selectmen, I don’t know when it was received, or how it was received," Butler said. "I think that may be the miscommunication."
Selectman John Duval thought it may be unfair to ask the teams to pay a year after the installation. He suggested returning the uncashed check to the one league that paid and letting the town absorb the whole cost.
"This team did step forward and they did pay without any formal communication from this Board of Selectmen, and we did have a motion," he said. "I just think more communication should have happened, and these are nonprofit leagues that raise all the funds that they have to operate."
Selectman Michael Ouellette felt as though the board should continue to ask for the money even if the leagues cannot pay right way.
"We should take an IOU, and I think we should live by the motion that we made," Ouellette said. "Let's go back to them and say you owe us money, and if they can't come up with it right away then they owe it to us."
The town meeting voted to accept the installation plan last year with no opposition.
"We have our process, and we talked about all these items at town meeting," Duval said. "Anyone could have asked a question, and I think there was ample opportunity for anyone to ask questions about this."
Although the town has paid for the full installation, any money received from the leagues now will go into free cash.
Duval explained that he is very concerned about this issue and would like to get to the bottom of it soon.
"There are a lot of upset people about this, and I want to make sure we discuss this with the Parks Commission, Selectmen and Jonathan," he said. "I want to make sure we make a decision because the leagues are upset and concerned, and there are a lot of issues."
Although officials decided a clear decision needs to be made soon, they chose to postpone further discussion to a future meeting.
"I think it's time that we put an end to this one way or the other," Butler said.