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An architect's rendering of plans for a new track and field at Mount Greylock Regional School.

Mount Greylock School Committee Sends Track, Field Project to Bid

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School Committee this month agreed to put the latest incarnation of its track and field project out to bid.
The panel could have bids in hand to approve as soon as its September meeting, and shovels could go in the ground at the middle-high school campus as early as this fall, Carolyn Greene told her colleagues.
"Assuming a bid is approved, the construction team might start in the fall," she said at the School Committee's July meeting. "They might start in the spring. It depends on their schedules.
"We'd anticipate the completion date would be essentially the same whether they started in fall or spring."
The project's current timeline would see the track and field team using the new eight-lane track and throwing and jumping pits in the spring 2025 season. The grass multisport field planned for the interior of the track would be ready for play by fall 2025.
Before voting 7-0 to authorize release of the bid documents, School Committee members had some questions about the specifications.
Jose Constantine asked for specifics about the grass field.
"We wanted to have an irrigated field, but it won't be a pure sand based field," district Business Manager Joe Bergeron said. "All professional teams use a pure sand layer [below topsoil] to provide utmost drainage. That's also a field that professional teams water daily because water evacuates that quickly.
"We're kind of a step below, where there's a fair amount of sand mixed with soil on top of which sod goes, so it drains fairly well. ... But it won't require irrigation such that we can't keep it green at any point where we want to play on it."
The new field to the west of the district administration building, which will be ringed with lights, figures to be the main varsity field, replacing the current John T. Allen Field on the east side of the Cold Spring Road campus.
The new grass field would be the home for varsity boys and girls soccer in the fall, varsity boys and girls lacrosse in the spring and football, assuming Mount Greylock revives the varsity sport; currently, Mount Greylock students participate in a cooperative team with Drury in North Adams.
Constantine and Julia Bowen also sought details on accessibility elements of the new project, which will have a ramp to the first level of the bleachers and spots for wheelchairs on that first level. The "press box" at the top of those bleachers will not be accessible.
Bergeron and Greene, who serve on the district's Track and Field Committee, said the architects assured the committee that the facility would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act but could not cite the specific explanation on the press box, which the subcommittee had asked about.
Curtis Elfenbein, during the meeting, pulled up language on the up codes website that appeared to explain it.
"There seems to also be an exemption ... that says an accessible ramp shall not be required to press boxes in bleachers that have points of entry at only one level provided the aggregate area of the press box is 500 square feet maximum," Elfenbein said. "I think we fall under that exemption."
Most of the project's estimated $4.125 million cost is to come from the remainder of a $5 million capital gift the district received from Williams College in 2016. This spring, the two-town district received auhorization from town meeting attendees in Lanesborough and Williamstown to borrow up to $1.8 million toward building the athletic facility.
At the July 13 meeting, Greene reminded the committee it was committed to raise funds through donations to offset the cost of the project and lower the sum that needs to be borrowed.
"I want to assure the committee and the public we have not forgotten that we're going to be fund-raising for the track and field project and lowering the cost to the towns as much as possible," Greene said.
In other business at its July meeting, the School Committee discussed whether and when to return to in-person meetings. The overwhelming majority of its meetings since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have been via the Zoom virtual meeting platform.
First then-Gov. Charlie Baker and later the Legislature in Boston authorized government bodies to do business without having a "physical" quorum of members in the same room, as required by the Open Meeting Law. That exception to the OML has been extended through March 31, 2025.
But most town boards and committees in the regional school district's member towns are meeting in person — often hybrid meetings with an option for committee members and members of the public to participate remotely. That fact was noted during the School Committee's discussion.
On the other hand, those town committee members generally don't have to travel the same distances to their respective town halls that School Committee members travel to the middle-high school, the School Committee's traditional meeting spot.
Earlier in July the School Committee held a rare in-person meeting attended by six of its members. Framed as a "retreat" (a term that does not appear in the OML), the traditional summer session is less formal, and no votes are conducted.
Superintendent Jason McCandless said the July 9 meeting showed, "there is a benefit to people gathering to do work."
McCandless also noted that benefit comes with a cost.
"We do understand that, in some ways, it's a luxury and a privilege to pick up what you're doing in your busy life and get to a place for a meeting," McCandless said. "That goes, in some ways, double for members of the public we want to be engaged in our meetings. We should be thinking about this pretty constantly."
Like the Williamstown Select Board, which also holds yearly "retreats," the Mount Greylock School Committee does not record those sessions, unlike every other meeting held by each elected body.
McCandless indicated that the meeting room at Mount Greylock could allow for "hybrid" meetings where participants would have the option to watch, listen and address the committee via Zoom.
The committee agreed to have the administration come to the body's August or September meeting with a plan for how such meetings could be held and to consider, perhaps, alternating between hybrid and fully online meetings while state law allows.
The School Committee was scheduled to vote on new contracts for McCandless and Bergeron at its July meeting. But after a half hour executive session to conduct negotiations with the administrators, the committee returned to open session and took no vote.
Committee member Steven Miller did read a statement on behalf of the panel.
"The committee expressed uniform appreciation for the excellent work of the superintendent and business manager, above and beyond the call of duty," Miller said.

Tags: MGRSD,   track & field,   

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