RICHMOND — The neglected state of Richmond Elementary School’s baseball field and basketball and tennis courts drew the attention of Town Council members at their meeting this week.
While the softball field is well-maintained because a league takes care of it, Councilor Nell Carpenter said the other areas are unusable.
“Who’s maintaining the grounds and the equipment at Richmond Elementary school, specifically the basketball courts, the tennis courts and the baseball or kickball field?” she asked on Tuesday. “I wanted to at least get that ball rolling, because it is in disrepair, the tennis court and the basketball court specifically.”
There was some confusion over who is responsible. The Chariho Regional School District leases the Richmond school property from the town, and Councilor Paul Michaud asked whether the town was supposed to be doing the maintenance.
“Doesn’t the town maintain those?” he asked. “I know at one time I think they did.”
Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth said she believed that the school district maintained outdoor facilities that it was using, and the town maintained those that were not in use.
Carpenter said she had visited the school a few weeks ago and had concluded that major repairs were needed at some of the outdoor sports facilities.
“Concrete busted, fencing around collapsing, with weeds and brambles and thorns and bees and things climbing up on the fencing. There’s a piece of plywood back there busted up,” she said, referring to the tennis court. “As far as the basketball courts are concerned, concrete, backboards that just aren’t so good.”
Council President Richard Nassaney questioned the neglect of the Richmond school facilities when the athletic facilities at the high school campus were well maintained.
“They want their football field and their track field to be spotless and pristine,” he said. “What about the elementary school kids who are eventually going to get there? Don’t they deserve the same high standard of tennis court or basketball court or safe playing areas? I think they do.”
Carpenter said the dilapidated facilities also presented a liability risk.
“It’s a hot potato,” she said. “The only concern is if somebody gets hurt, we are going to find out very quickly who’s responsible for that.”
Ellsworth said the town would have to meet with Chariho representatives to discuss the matter.
“It’s something that we’re going to have to work out with the school district,” she said.
Town Administrator Karen Pinch said she believed the school district was responsible for all school maintenance, including outside facilities. “They have a buildings and grounds department,” she said.
When contacted about the council’s concerns, Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci agreed that maintenance of the outdoor facilities at the Richmond school was Chariho’s responsibility.
“There was some ambiguity about who was responsible, but we budgeted to have a master plan done of the property so we could position ourselves for funding,” he said.
The school district budgeted $5,000 for the plan, created by Robinson Green Beretta architects, and it will be used to support a grant application to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. The plan is now being prepared and is expected to be completed soon.