Whitman OKs updates to Park, WMS ballfields
By Mike Melanson
WHITMAN — Selectmen on Tuesday Sept. 16 voted to approve a request by the Whitman Baseball & Softball Association (WBSA) to place a flagpole and bench near the baseball dugout at Whitman Park, and place batting cages at the Whitman Middle School.
Town Administrator Francis Lynam said the Massachusetts Historical Commission, acting on behalf of the National Register of Historic Places, must also approve the Whitman Park project, as the park is encumbered by a preservation agreement.
“It’s minor in nature. I don’t anticipate a problem,” he said.
Lynam said the project could relocate a flagpole from the old police station behind town hall to the field, and perhaps remove the other old police station flagpole at the same time.
He said batting cages behind the current police station would be relocated to the middle school fields.
Lynam said there is some concern about that part of the project.
He said there is a sophisticated irrigation system at the middle school field, and there is an electrical component as well.
The complex cost approximately $1-million to build, and there will need to be architectural and engineering designs for the batting cages, Lynam said.
“We’re going to need to make sure we know what we’re doing before we start this project,” he said.
In a letter to Lynam, Kevin Briggs of WSBA said they would need to dig a trench for power to operate a pitching machine at the middle school.
To install the batting cages, it might be necessary to take a layer of grass up, level the ground, then pour cement or asphalt and lay baseball artificial turf.
The WSBA has licensed electricians on its board of directors who will do the wiring, and all expenses would be the association’s responsibility.
The cages behind the police station are rarely used due to their location and condition.
“The convenience of location and quality of these new cages will benefit the children of Whitman Baseball and Softball for years to come,” Briggs states in the letter.
Selectman Daniel Salvucci said a flagpole at a baseball field is usually on the first base or third base lines. He said it is interesting that the flag pole and bench at the Whitman Park ball field would be put in the place where there used to be a baseball monument, behind the dugout on the first base side of the field.
“It will dress up the area,” he said.
Lynam said there would be problems if the flag pole was put on the foul lines because of the layout of Whitman Park and proximity of a pond.
“This is the appropriate location for this setting,” he said.
Selectmen and Public Works Commissioners met jointly Tuesday and appointed two commissioners to fill vacancies after the resignations of commissioners Edward Winnett and Dana Olson.
Appointed by vote of selectmen and the commissioners were David Cook and Wayne Carroll.
Cook, a senior project manager at Keough Construction Management, will serve until 2017, when the position will be up for election. Cook has been a Whitman resident since 1990, and said he wanted to get more involved with the town and thought he has the qualifications for the position.
“This opportunity presented itself,” he said.
Wayne Carroll, who has been a Whitman resident for 50 years, born and raised in town, was a career firefighter who just retired after 27 years as a Hanson firefighter.
Carroll said he has worked for the highway and water departments, and has 25 years of experience of negotiating union contracts, including going through arbitration. He will serve until 2015, when the position will be up for election.
“I’m very interested in the DPW position, and I intend to run for the position in May,” he said.
Assistant Town Administrator Gregory Enos has worked on a cooperative agreement with Abington to secure community development block grants for both towns, Lynam said.
The towns applied for an $800,000 grant two years ago to set up a fund for people with economic needs to make necessary repairs to their properties.
This year, $780,216 was awarded to Whitman and Abington, to fund repair projects for 18 housing units in each community, and support the St. Vincent de Paul food pantries in both towns, Lynam said.
This year, Whitman will receive $262,000 to cover 18 units, which can be used to replace hot water tanks, make units handicapped accessible, and to get things up to code. The food pantries in Whitman and Abington will also each receive $36,000, Enos said.
Selectmen praised the agreement.
“This is outstanding,” said Selectman Brian Bezanson.
“Spectacular,” agreed Selectman Lisa Green.
Lynam said that under the town’s property tax work-off program, senior citizens may volunteer to work for the town for 100 hours at $8 per hour, the state minimum wage, in exchange for an $800 abatement.
However, the governor has signed legislation raising the minimum wage, and Whitman might want to considering changing the amount of hours that senior citizens in the program work, or the amount they are paid per hour, he said.
Lynam said he plans to present a proposal in November, but wanted to bring the matter up with selectmen Tuesday.
Salvucci asked if volunteers would need to be turned away if the town increased the work-off abatement to $1,000.
Lynam said that on average there are 26 senior volunteers and the program has been open.
If there are more applicants than positions open, new applicants get priority over returning ones, he said.
“We’re getting a lot of help out of the program. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” he said. “We’ll be revisiting.”
Selectmen voted to support a special or annual Town Meeting warrant article for $32,000 to replace dishwashers at the Conley and Whitman Middle schools.
The devices are beyond repair, and their immediate replacement will require the regional school district to “pre-pay,” and then seek reimbursement from Whitman, according to school officials.
Lynam said the town is required to pay for capital items at the two school buildings.
Assistant Superintendent of District Operations Craig Finley and school Superintendent Ruth Gilbert-Whitner, in a letter to Lynam, said they understood that the district would pre-pay for the dishwashers and Whitman selectmen would support a May Town Meeting article reimbursement request.
“They are looking for assurance,” Lynam said. “These are expensive machines.”