Amherst CPA Committee Lifts Restrictions on Track & Field Funding


Aerial view of the Amherst High School Campus. Photo: Chris Condit

The Amherst Community Preservation Act (CPA) Committee convened a meeting on June 6, 2024 at the request of the Town Council to decide whether to remove restrictions on $800,000 they previously voted (in 2022) for the high school track and field project. The Regional School Committee decided to move forward with one of three plans, all of which include a natural grass field and two of which maintain the current East-West orientation. In order to have the flexibility to pursue any option, the existing restrictions on funding that specify an artificial turf field and a North-South orientation needed to be removed.

Assistant Town Manager Dave Ziomek spoke on behalf of both the regional school district and town as Interim Superintendent Doug Slaughter was not in attendance. Ziomek explained the decision to abandon artificial turf, based on environmental and health concerns. He also indicated that while there was still interest in pursuing reorientation to North-South, this would require new funding which has not yet been secured but is being sought from the Amherst Town Council. In order to meet the desired goal of completing the project in time for the fall 2025, the designers need to have a final decision on which option to pursue before the end of June.

The CPA quickly dispensed with lifting the restriction to allow a grass field with a unanimous vote. The restriction requiring a North-South orientation met with much more resistance. Committee members spoke of the impact that the current East-West orientation has on visibility during late afternoons. They also wondered about its effect on the master plan developed for all the fields at the high schools. Kevin Fusilier from SLR Consulting shared a new slide (see slide 9) that showed the option “3C” with the track reoriented to North-South includes the development of a new multipurpose field to the west. He clarified that this would not be a fully reconstructed field but would include new topsoil and seed and whatever underfield drainage currently exists at this location. The long term plans call for this to be replaced with a new varsity softball field but Ziomek noted that this would not be until many years in the future.

Newly proposed option 3c with a new grass athletic field. Photo:

Despite reassurances from Ziomek that every effort is being made to secure enough funding for the North-South option, some committee members remained concerned that removing the restriction would inevitably result in an East-West facility. The question was raised whether the CPA Committee could vote to increase the CPA funding to ensure that the more expensive but more desired North-South orientation was secured. Amherst Comptroller Holly Drake pointed out that without a request before them for additional funding, the CPA cannot take action to approve more money. After a lengthy debate, the committee voted 6-3 “to rescind the restriction on the North-South orientation with the strong recommendation to pursue the North-South option and encouragement to return to the CPA for additional funds to meet the North-South objective”. In support were committee members Katie Zobel, David Williams, Michelle Labbe, Bob Saul, Robin Fordham, and Matt Cain; Sam McLeod, Doug Marshall, and Tim Neal voted no.

This matter, including a request for additional funding to allow the North-South option, will now go to the Amherst Finance Committee on June 11 and Town Council on June 17 for their approval. A public hearing has been scheduled for Monday, June 17 as additional funding would be spending outside the usual annual budget. 

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2 thoughts on “Amherst CPA Committee Lifts Restrictions on Track & Field Funding

  1. This CPA meeting was painful to watch but they got it done in the end.
    Getting another $750,000 from Amherst by 6/17 seems unlikely, not to mention very poor optics considering the struggle to secure half that amount for the schools’ operating budget to save teacher positions.

    Is it too late for the north-south option scope to be reduced to the $3.4m that’s in hand? And go back to CPA Committees in Pelham, Leverett, and Shutesbury for funds this fall to fund the deferred items?
    Removing/deferring the lighting ($500K) + Bituminous Concrete Walks ($192,300) + Concrete Bleacher Pad ($80,400) would seem to get a north—south orientation within budget, without Amherst having to give more.

  2. I believe that the Hurricane Boosters raised $300k for the original proposal for an artificial turf field. Perhaps that $$$ can be contributed to the grass field with better orientation. And the hill towns can add some funding. My 2 athlete sons prefer playing on grass since it leads to fewer injuries. And having sun in your eyes while playing isn’t so safe either. Let’s all work toward the best solution we can afford and get it done now.

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