Changes coming to Chet Nichols Field

Changes coming to Chet Nichols Field

The Chet Nichols Field on Old River Road, next to Lincoln High School, is slated to get long-awaited repairs and improvements, including repairs to the pitcher’s mound and bases, an irrigation system, as well as repairs to the lighting. (Breeze file photo by Brittany Ballantyne)
School Committee approves up to $50,000 for repairs

LINCOLN – Long-awaited repairs are coming to Chet Nichols Field, school officials say, after the School Committee voted to spend up to $50,000 for work at the site next to Lincoln High School on Old River Road.

Discussing concerns with the field, Business Manager Lori Miller told school board members, “It’s a safety issue at this point.”

The infield, as Miller described, is “almost like concrete.” Holes litter the outfield, she said, and attempts at growing grass have been challenging. The pitcher’s mound needs to be fixed, as do the bases. An irrigation system must be installed and the field must be fertilized and maintained, she said, to make the site “playable again.”

In addition to the need for field improvements, one of the lights at the field is no longer working, Miller said, after it was discovered mice chewed away at the device.

Miller told board members that a fix to the light would cost about $10,500.

Town Administrator Joe Almond said that money was not in the town’s current budget, but said the town would reimburse the School Department for its use of its accumulated surplus with the town’s capital reserve account.

The entire improvement project is expected to cost about $45,000, including the money for the light.

Athletic Director Greg O’Connor, LHS Principal Kevin McNamara and Director of Parks and Recreation Alan Moreau compiled a list of the problems with the field, Miller said, and Sports Turf Specialties Inc. came to survey the site.

In a unanimous decision at the Oct. 4 meeting, the School Committee voted to use funds from the School Department’s accumulated surplus to pay for repair expenses. That surplus stood at about $1.3 million, Miller said, though that figure is subject to change.

School Committee Chairwoman Kristine Donabedian, Vice Chairman Joseph Goho and members Mary Anne Roll, Julie Zito and John Picozzi voted in favor of the move. Members Staci Rapko-Bruckner and John LaFleur were absent from the meeting.

Once repairs are completed, Miller said, ongoing maintenance at the site will cost roughly $6,000 a year.

At the meeting, board members and Miller discussed reimbursement options, and any town funding that could be used for the project. Miller said the town’s insurance company will not pay for the work, and said she’d reached out to the Rhode Island Department of Education to inquire about reimbursements, considering health and safety of students.

She said Almond told her he’d put a funding request for the baseball field repairs into capital resolutions for the upcoming budget season, and if the Budget Board approves of the expenditure and taxpayers at this year’s Financial Town Meeting aren’t opposed, the School Department would be reimbursed for that work on the town field.

While the field is used by LHS teams, groups including American Legion teams and Little League also play at the site, as noted by School Committee members, as well as Miller and Supt. Georgia Fortunato.

Zito said, “While I support this, because I believe all of the fields in this town should be up to par, the town has gotten money from Twin River and rebuilt at least four different fields in areas for recreation that the entire town uses. This (Chet Nichols Field) is a town field.”

Zito noted the School Committee was investing several thousand dollars from the School Department’s accumulated surplus that was intended to be used for “educational funds,” as stated by Donabedian at a previous school board meeting when discussing the construction of a concession stand and restroom building at Ferguson Field.

At the Oct. 4 meeting, Donabedian responded by saying she believed “the field is an extension of the classroom,” and said the repairs to the baseball field were a different topic than the concession stand discussion.

She said the status of Chet Nichols Field is that of a safety issue. “That really colors it in a different light, from my perspective,” she said.

Donabedian said Almond is unable to borrow money from other line items in the municipal budget, as he would have needed to plan that during the last budget cycle, and have those expenditures approved at the last FTM in May.

Toward the end of the School Committee meeting, Roll said she still had concerns about funding maintenance work at Ferguson Field.

“I still worry about the significant amount of money that it will take just to replace that top layer (of turf). We should have a plan,” she said.

Vice Chairman Goho said a joint meeting between School Committee members and town officials about how to share the maintenance of Chet Nichols Field was needed, and said those meetings should begin as soon as possible.

Comments

It's good to see that this ball field will be fixed and brought up to safe standards. Still, the facility isn't THAT old...when was the park constructed? Thirty years ago at the most, I'm thinking. Thank you.

About 10 years ago the Town spent about $80,000 to repair and replace the dirt portion of the infield. At the time there was a drainage problem. In the nineties the grass portion of the infield was replaced and I believe drainage installed. I was surprised to read the field is like concrete.
As a faithful reader of the Valley Breeze it seems like the School Committee spends a disproportionate amount of their time on athletic fields. I was surprised to read they consider the field an extension of the Classroom.
The outfield has always been a problem there; because it overused by other sports.
When the Turner Field was constructed it was intended to be a soccer field. However it was put into use too soon, and the grass didn't have a chance to get established. At one time the Middle School Soccer team was playing at the High School Baseball Field.
The School Committee needs to look at all the fields and decide best usage. The High School Baseball Field has always suffered from over usage by other sports.