Football lights still on the table in BarreOctober 02,2012
By David Delcore
BARRE — The possibility that the Spaulding High School football team could play its home games under the lights next season lurched forward Monday night as Mayor Thomas Lauzon made a renewed pitch for what he has repeatedly described as an “important community project.”
There’s still a long way to go, but Lauzon finally got the discussion that he asked for, was denied, and finally forced in the wake of a war of words that he started by publicly questioning the leadership of the Spaulding School Board and the Barre Town Select Board two weeks ago.
The leaders of both of those boards fired back last week, crashing the City Council meeting and calling out Lauzon for calling out them.
Lauzon, who was originally miffed that his request for a joint meeting to discuss ways to finance the $180,000 plan to install lights at the high school football field was summarily rejected, kept his promise to have the discussion anyway. He showed up at Monday’s meeting of the Spaulding board, along with a quorum of the City Council, to talk about the council’s standing offer to appropriate $90,000 for the project from money that former Barre businessman Charlie Semprebon left the city following his death in 2009.
The tone of Monday’s meeting was decidedly different from last week’s council meeting when talk turned to the lighting project. There were no harsh words and angry rhetoric as Lauzon politely explained what the council had in mind.
Lauzon stressed the council’s offer to earmark $90,000 for the lighting project is not open-ended and, if it appeared clear that the long-discussed lighting project could not, or would not, happen in the foreseeable future, council members would likely reallocate the funds to a much larger pool of money that it hopes to use to help finance construction of a portion of a regional bike path.
“We find ourselves in the position where the clock does tick on those funds,” he told members of the Spaulding board.
If the tone of the meeting was different, so, arguably, was the substance of the council’s offer, though Lauzon stressed that the premise — that the city is prepared to fund 50 percent of the estimated project costs — has not changed.
Although the council approved the use of $90,000 from the so-called Semprebon Fund contingent on Barre Town — Barre’s partner in the local union high school district — coming up with the other half of the money, Lauzon said he doesn’t believe the council is concerned about where the other half of the money actually comes from. The only caveat, at least in Lauzon’s view, is that the additional money not come from city taxpayers, or from the Semprebon Fund.
“The City of Barre would consider the $90,000 (its) contribution (to the project),” he said, rejecting the suggestion that the council’s offer was somehow “less than magnanimous” because the money in question was left to the city and not raised in taxes.
“I would just remind people that every dollar we contribute towards the high school athletic field lighting project (from the Semprebon Fund) is one dollar less that we have to spend on other projects,” he said.
Lauzon said he does believe there is a real opportunity to put a significant dent in the $90,000 balance without turning to taxpayers in either community.
Citing a chance conversation the he had last week with Sen. Bill Doyle, R-Washington, Lauzon said Doyle indicated that he and his wife, Olene, would be willing to pledge $1,000 toward the lighting project. Lauzon said his own wife, Karen, would match that pledge and suggested a coordinated fundraising effort might raise most, if not all, of the remaining funds.
“With a lot of hard work and a little bit of effort … if you ask and if you work at it, good things happen,” Lauzon said.
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