CHESTER – At the April 3 selectmen’s meeting, the recreation commission raised concerns over a selectmen decision last month to defund some of their field maintenance lines, but by the end of the night, finding that the lines hadn’t been completely zeroed out, members left assuaged.
Though selectman Rich LeBlanc said at the end of the discussion that rumors about board decisions should not be heeded, recreation committee members pointed out that they had received no communication from the selectmen before or after their operating funds were cut.
The removal of field maintenance funds is tied up in a decision by the selectmen to allow the commission to run Town Fair through their revolving account. The commission had asked previously to run the Town Fair through this account, rather than through a budget line. It would make organization more efficient, they argued, but selectmen were at first hesitant to allow it.
But on March 20 the selectmen voted to let the commission run the fair through the revolving account and also agreed to cut funds from their budget because of it. Some of the decision was predicated on the understanding that the revolving account had about $53,000, but on Thursday, recreation member Corinna Reishus explained that the account actually had $38,000.
On March 20, the selectmen removed about $12,000 from the recreation budget, $6,000 for a fence project around the new fields at the Wason Pond Conservation and Recreation Area, and about $3,000 for lawn maintenance at commission-managed fields.
Last week, members said they were amenable to the $6,000 reduction for fencing but were uncomfortable with the field maintenance money removal, as that had long been the way field fertilization was paid for.
Commission member Beth Swanson argued that the fields were like any other town infrastructure in that they needed to be maintained regularly, if large repair bills were to be avoided in the future. She suggested that if the revolving account was going to have to absorb that cost, raising fees for programs would have to be considered.
Member Bill Chirgwin said they could likely handle the cost of the field maintenance for the coming year and maybe the next, but he was concerned that in future years the commission would have to ask for money in that line again, something he feared would be seen as a new expense and thus turned down.
Selectman Jack Cannon said no one was arguing that the fields should be neglected – the matter was a difference of opinion over how that work should be paid for.
Eventually the groups realized they were talking of slightly different numbers. Reishus said there was more left in those lines than she had understood and was happy to let the matter rest.