WINCHESTER - Town Meeting couldn’t decide what to do with Article 21, to amend the current bylaw to allow for the hiring of a Field Marshall to look after both the grass and synthetic fields, so it voted by a slim margin to indefinitely postpone the article until a future Town Meeting, 75-68.
Select Board member Amy Shapiro, speaking on behalf of the motion, suggested the position would increase revenue by identifying unpermitted fee-based field programs and bringing them into compliance, respect safety issues and communicate with the public.
She noted the Personnel Board approved the position for FY21 (which Town Meeting approved under the Personnel Board article; however, because they indefinitely postponed this article, there won’t be a Field Marshall this fiscal year). If approved at some point, it would be a seasonal position: 10 hours a week in the spring and fall and 15 hours a week in the summer with an hourly salary between $14.97-$18.75 and an annual salary between $5,000-$7,000.
While the Finance Committee recommended favorable action, Town Meeting worried the position could actually run a negative cost to the town. Chris Nixon, a School Committee member, but speaking as a Town Meeting member and parent, spoke to how the Recreation Enterprise Fund isn’t generating the revenue the town expected. This could make it difficult to sustain a yearly position if the fund ever runs low on money.
“We need to pursue ways to generate revenue,” he stressed,
However, even though Shapiro called this position a potential revenue-generator, Nixon claimed it felt like an operating expense (and not something the enterprise fund should deal with) and wondered if it would be a net positive or negative for the town. To that question, the new Recreation Director Nick Cacciolfi said while he couldn’t promise anything, “it looks (like a net positive) on paper.”
He mentioned how the fields are “deteriorating at a high level,” suggesting the position could “diminish the excessive wear and tear” and force unpermitted groups to go elsewhere.
Without more proof the position would return money, Nixon motioned to indefinitely postpone the article.
“We need some accounting to make sure it works,” he proposed.
Michelle Prior, a Town Meeting member and former Finance Committee chair, favored Nixon’s motion and asked Town Meeting not to use revolving funds to pay for the position and instead to bank as much as possible.
Shapiro, in defense of the article, said it’s been precedent to use revolving funds in this situation. She added how she wished she had a Magic 8-Ball to see what money would come from the position. As an example of what might happen, she pointed to a day this past July where she claimed seven unpermitted groups were using the various fields.
Unfortunately for her, Town Meeting sided with Nixon and indefinitely postponed the article. It could return in the spring if new information arises that make the Town Manager, Select Board or Recreation Department feel confident Town Meeting would support it.