WESTERLY — Town officials will move forward with a grant application seeking money to improve municipal recreation facilities with walking trails, a new basketball and multi-purpose court, benches and landscaping, but will not seeks funds for a shelter at the Bradford Preserve lacrosse field at the direction of the Town Council.
The council voted 6-1 during a meeting Monday to authorize seeking the grant from the state Department of Environmental Management after an earlier motion that would have included the shelter for players at the Bradford facility failed by a 4-3 vote. Councilors Christopher Duhamel, William Aiello, and Brian McCuin voted in favor of the first motion but the motion failed when councilors Sharon Ahern, Karen Cioffi, Caswell Cooke Jr. and Suzanne Giorno voted against it. Ahern was the only councilor to vote against both motions.
The council's vote means town officials will seek $440,000 in grant funding for walking trails at Cimalore Field, Gingerella Sports Complex, and Bradford Preserve, a basketball/multi-purpose court at Gingerella, a shelter at Gingerella, and benches and landscaping for various facilities. The grant application will not include a request for $20,000 for the shelter at the Bradford facility.
The grant requires a 20 percent match from the town. A portion of the match can be covered with in-kind services or the work of town staff.
The gazebo-like structure planned for the Bradford Preserve would have provided shelter for players during rain and lightning storms, said Ed Haik, Recreation Board chairman.
Some of the councilors who asked to have the proposed shelter in Bradford removed from the application said residents who live near the preserve property were "promised" that no structures would be built on the property when the Town Council approved allowing the Westerly Area Youth Lacrosse League to use the preserve.
"The individuals in Bradford that live in that area were told that there were were not going to be any structures built," Giorno said.
At the town's Pee Wee Football field, Giorno said, "our structure is our umbrellas, and if you don't like that, sit in your car."
Paul Duffy, recreation director, said he believed conditions regarding the use of the Bradford Preserve field had been lifted. Over time, he said, recreation and lacrosse league officials have worked with the neighbors.
Haik noted that a consultant hired by the town to develop a master plan for recreation facilities recommended construction of shelters for facilities that did not have one. He also offered to work with the neighbors to determine an agreeable location for the shelter. "I'm not looking for a concession stand, I'm just looking for shelter and safety," Haik said.
Cooke, who was on the council when the lacrosse league first started using the preserve, agreed with Giorno, saying a "promise" not to build a structure on the field had been made. McCuin, who was also on the council when the league started using the field, said one council cannot bind another council. He also said that the decision on development of the field was the jurisdiction of the Zoning Board of Review, not the Town Council.
Aiello, a Bradford resident and the council's liason to the Recreation Board, said the board frequently discusses the effect of recreation facilities on surrounding neighborhoods. The proposed shelter would not prove to be "cumbersome," he said.
Ahern said the grant would require too great of a commitment, whether it was financial or through in-kind services provided by Public Works staff.
"Even if we did an in-kind match, it's not that easy. You have to justify every employee, the hours and the machine, and I still say if they are doing this they're not doing something that we already have," Ahern said.