091819 Rich Athletic fields at Richmond Elementary 1013.JPG

A neglected ballfield at the Richmond Elementary School. Sun file photo

WOOD RIVER JCT. — The Chariho School Committee, at its meeting on Tuesday, once again took up the issue of responsibility for outdoor recreational facilities at the Richmond Elementary School.

The school district has accepted that Chariho, not the town, is responsible for maintaining the facilities, which have fallen into serious disrepair after years of neglect.

Chariho Director of Administration Susan Rogers told the Richmond Town Council on Oct. 15 that the district acknowledged responsibility for the facilities and had engaged RGB architects of Providence to design a plan for significant upgrades. Rogers explained that the town, not the school district, was eligible to apply for a state grant to cover the cost of the work, and the council voted to submit the funding application. 

That understanding does not appear to have settled the matter for a Richmond School Committee member, William Day, who suggested that the school district was having to pay for maintenance that was not its responsibility.

Day pointed to what he called a “Green Acres” grant received decades ago in which the school acquired land that the town was responsible for maintaining. That property, located in back of the school, is where the facilities in question are located.

“I can get the exact date with a little more research, but that piece of property was purchased from Meadow Brook Farm,” he said. “I think that the town took us for a ride, personally, when they made that our responsibility with the lease.”

Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci said he would look into the matter, but he noted that in the meantime, the school district had accepted responsibility and was moving ahead with a plan to repair and upgrade the basketball and tennis courts and a playing field.

“That’s the path we’re heading down,” he said. “If we learn something new from the Green Acres, we can certainly put a stop to it, but to do nothing right now, honestly … would not be good.”

In other business, members granted quick approvals to several items, including a net metering contract with a Massachusetts-based solar energy company, Kearsage Westerly LLC. Chariho will purchase power from Kearsage’s solar facility at the former quarry site at 271 Church St. in Bradford.

Chariho already owns an aging solar array that is located on the main campus and would be decommissioned as part of the Kearsage agreement.

Day questioned the safety of leaving the array unfenced and vulnerable to damage.

“My concern is, we don’t have any existing safety standards at our facility there,” he said. “It’s wide open to anyone, accessible to anyone who might step on them. I would like to — if it’s necessary to make an amendment — that we decommission our existing system immediately.” 

Kearsage managing director Andrew Bernstein said he would ask the construction company chosen to do the work (a company has not yet been selected) to decommission the panels as soon as possible. In the meantime, he said, shutting the panels down was a relatively simple matter.

“Get a tarp, or any type of covering, and throw it over the panels, because then, there’s no electricity that’s generated at all,” he said. “If you want to have complete safety, any type of tarp that blocks the sun will serve that purpose.”

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