Williamstown Debates Elementary School Playground
A 13-member subcommittee developed plans to keep the main playground structure in place but the swings still need to be moved. The white line marks the proposed footprint for the new youth center.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A playground subcommittee will present new plans for the Williamstown Youth Center, approved to be built on Williamstown Elementary School property, to keep the playground from being relocated.
The 13-member subcommittee met Thursday afternoon with Black River Design, the engineering firm hired to plan the site, and developed three options that keep the main structure of the playground intact but move the swing sets. The solutions centered around repositioning the playing fields.
Formed after opposition to redeveloped building plans that moved the playground triggered a lengthy discussion at the last School Committee meeting, the subcommittee consisted of representatives for a variety of interests — from the sports groups using the fields to property abutters to teachers.
"Everybody wants this to work for the community," Williamstown Youth Center Executive Director David Rempell said. "The subcommittee has the charge of coming up with some viable options."
Citing deplorable conditions at the current center, the youth center originally proposed a two-story building positioned next to the elementary school but later revised plans to a one-story structure with a larger footprint. The one-story building plans called for uprooting the playground. Officials say the plans were changed for greater energy efficiency and easier supervision of the children.
Opponents expressed concern about safety, aesthetics, supervision and usage time of the fields, which caused the project to slow down and there is a possibility to delay construction.
"The building committee of the youth center is basically taking a time out," Rempell said. "There is a distinct possibility that we won't break ground in June because we are revisiting these issues."
The subcommittee will submit its findings on Monday, Nov. 29 — one day before the School Committee votes on the final plans. The school does not have to accept the recommendations.
After expressing each member's concerns the group discussed multiple options including shrinking the size of the building and changing its layout. The group even tried negotiating.
"If we get lights at Bud Anderson field we could get rid of one of our fields," Jeff Meehan, representing Cal Ripken Baseball, said.
In the end, using cutouts and blueprints, the subcommittee decided that it was not reasonable to keep the playground exactly the way it is but the main structure could be kept by repositioning where each field is located on the grounds. All costs will be absorbed by the youth center, which has raised nearly $3.5 million through the "Together We Can" campaign for the new building.
"Right now the playground is a community gathering place and we want to maintain that sense," Principal Stephen Johnson said.