CPA Committee Approves Borrowing For Track And Field Project At AHRS


Pitting and patching dominate the surface of the Amherst High School track. Adopting Option 2 would repair and reorient the track and install a new grass field in the center. Option 3 would do the same but with an artificial turf field. Photo: Art Keene

Report On The Special meeting Of the Community Preservation Act Committee, June 2, 2022

This meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded.  The meeting packet can be found here.

The Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) met on June 2 to discuss borrowing $800,000 to finance reorienting the high school track and improving the enclosed field and surrounding drainage. This out of cycle meeting was prompted by the regional school department’s recent development of a plan as to how to finance the proposed $4.7 million project.

The project was presented by School Finance Director Doug Slaughter with input from Assistant Town Manager Dave Ziomek, Finance Director Sean Mangano, and Comptroller Sonia Aldrich. Details can be viewed here. Slaughter stressed the poor condition of the current track, which has been unsuitable for hosting a home meet since 2018. In addition, the wet conditions and poor orientation of the enclosed playing field has resulted in cancellation or postponement of several soccer games. Finally, the current track and playing field are not accessible.

Amherst has already spent $157,000 in design costs for the track and field. The regional school committee (RSC) voted to authorize borrowing $1.5 million to at least cover the cost of resurfacing the track without modification of the fields, but felt that the larger project was much preferable and that most of the money could be raised through CPA funds, grant money (ARPA or other grants), and donations through the Hurricane Booster Club. The RSC decided that if $2.2 million of the remaining money could be raised by January 16, 2023, they would go ahead with the larger project. The January 16 date was chosen to take advantage of end-of-the-year donations, and still give the RSC time to begin the project in the spring.

The $4.7 million project includes artificial turf for the playing field, improved drainage, and improved access. It maintains the six-lane track. Upgrading to eight lanes would be an additional $150,000, but would allow the school to host regional meets. Currently, some athletic tournaments have had to shift to other sites due to the condition of the track and fields at AHRS. For instance, the Amherst Ultimate Invitational was held at the MacDuffie School in Granby this year, resulting in a loss of economic benefit for Amherst businesses. 

The artificial turf cannot be paid for with CPA funds, per state regulations, but most other aspects of the project are eligible for the funds. The turf is preferable because it would save on maintenance and provide increased durability, so it is considered to be important to the project. Additional seating is also not included in this project, but could be added later. 

Amherst’s share of the requested $1.2 million in CPA funds is $800,000. An additional $1 million is slated to be raised from grants from the four participating towns, and another $1 million from donations. Ziomek said that the boosters were confident they could raise that amount and are anxious to get started.

The committee members were all in favor of the larger project. Planning Board member Andrew MacDougall noted that four girls’ lacrosse games were canceled this spring because of poor field conditions. Historical Commission representative Hetty Startup acknowledged the importance of the track to members of the community outside of the school. David Williams, representative from the Housing Authority, pointed out the importance of the fields and track to the larger goal of increasing the vitality of the center of Amherst, along with the Kendrick Park playground and North Common upgrade.

Representation of the more limited option for resurfacing the track at Amherst regional High School. Photo:
Representation of the larger, and more preferred plan for resurfacing the track and improving the playing fields at Amherst Regional High School. The softball field pictured is not part of the proposal but was noted as a project that might be undertaken in the future. Photo:

CPAC voted unanimously to approve the borrowing of the $800,000 with the contingency that it can only be applied to the larger track and field project, not to the fall-back plan of only resurfacing the track. No public comment was solicited. Several CPAC members commented on the importance of having an eight-lane track.

Aldrich said the debt service on this money would begin in FY24, which would be a tight year if the allocated funds for the Jones Library special collections also begins that year, but pressure should ease after that as other debts are paid off.

The other three towns in the region will need to have conversations about how to finance their shares of the project. Slaughter did say that the regional school system did refund some unspent funds to each community, so they may wish to dedicate some or all of those to the track. Since the other towns have already held their town meetings for the year, it is unclear how they will meet the January 16, 2023 fundraising deadline if they do not have additional town meetings in the fall.

Other CPA News

In other CPA news, Amherst Community Connections returned $200,000 in unspent funds to CPAC. This money will go into the amount that can be used for FY24 projects or debt service. Aldrich thought the state match for CPA funds may increase to about 30% in the coming year. 

Sarah Marshall (Chair, Recreation Committee) and Sarah Eisinger (community member) finish their terms on CPAC at the end of the month. Startup said Robin Fordham will return as the representative from the Historical Commission. A replacement for Ana Devlin Gauthier from the Conservation Committee has not yet been approved by the Town Council.

The CPA funds for the track project must be approved by the Town Council.

Spread the love

3 thoughts on “CPA Committee Approves Borrowing For Track And Field Project At AHRS

Leave a Reply

The Amherst Indy welcomes your comment on this article. Comments must be signed with your real, full name & contact information; and must be factual and civil. See the Indy comment policy for more information.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.