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There was some flooding from recent rain on the Westerly High School football field . The school committee is looking at a presentation for an artificial turf field.(Christine Corrigan/The Westerly Sun)

WESTERLY — The School Committee Tuesday approved  spending up to $12,000 for a feasibility study to investigate fundraising for the sports complex at Westerly High School. 

Board of Recreation member Ed Haik said a committee formed to study an Athletics Facility Master Plan has designated the athletic fields of Westerly High School a “major project.” 

“One thing that kind of piqued my interest was a fundraising campaign,” Haik said. He said he was always intrigued by the Narragansett High School facility and wanted to find out the process they went through to aquire their athletic fields. 

“What did they go through, how did they fund it, what were the obstacles they overcame?” Haik said. He found out that “the key to get everyone involved in the community is through a fundraising campaign.”

“I thought of fundraising as bake sales and golf tournaments and stuff like that,” Haik said. “This is totally different.”

Haik said he reached out to professional fundraiser Dan Barry of Daniel Barry and Associates, who has worked on some Westerly projects. 

“He said the most important part of the fundraising campaign is the feasibility study,” Haik said. “The feasibility study could last three or four months. It’s just a study to establish how much money we could possibly raise.”

Chairwoman Diane Chiaradio Bowdy noted the feasibility study would only be for the athletic complex at Westerly High School.

“We came to the conclusion that fundraising will be a necessity because we know we will never have either the capital or operating dollars to fund this project,” Chiaradio Bowdy said. “And it’s already past six or seven years since we should have had a new space installed.

“We’re at the point now where we’re reaching out in desperation. We’ve got to get this done.”

Professional fundraiser Barry told the crowd that he was the one who ran the campaign for the athletic field in Narragansett. 

“What the feasibility study finds out is who cares and who doesn’t care,” Barry said. 

Committee member Mary Adams said she would not be supporting the feasibility study. 

“A few years ago the community came out with a bond for the voters and it was rejected,” Adams said. “I sort of feel like this feasibility study is going around the voters of the community.”

“So I would support the School Committee coming up with a plan for our facilities and putting a bond out to the voters,” Adams said. “Because I think the voters need to have a say.”

“We’ve just been informed our playgrounds are not operational,” Adams said. “I’m concerned about the overlapping and organizational issues of our grounds in general.

“I’m also concerned about the bidding process for Westerly public schools,” Adams said. “Any expense over $5,000 needs to go out to bid, so if we approve this tonight we’re actually choosing a fundraiser and we’ve had no presentations from any other organizations, so I’m concerned about that.”

Adams said she was also not clear whether it would be the school system or town of Westerly that would be raising funds.

“Who would have care, control and custody of that funding?” Adams asked. 

Chiaradio Bowdy noted that if the study was approved at the meeting, it would go out for an RFP.

““It will not automatically go to Mr. Barry,” she said. 

“We’re not giving any carte blanche to move forward with the plan,” said co-chair Christine Cooke. “All we’re doing is authorizing another way to look to fund something we cannot fund.”

“Potentially we could do another bond, but right now with the building project ... there’s not enough room in the budget right now,” Adams said. 

“I worked in a district that didn’t have a lot of money,” committee member Marianne Nardone said. “I found through my work over many years that fundraising brings the community together.”

Adams was the only committee member to vote “no” to fund the feasibility study. 

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