Cracking worsens at SHS track, where repairs long overdue

Cracking worsens at SHS track, where repairs long overdue

Michael Colucci, of Smithfield, walks the Smithfield High School track often, and said the cracks and grass sprouting up through heaves are “horrendous.” He pulled up an edge to reveal the length of the crack in a portion of the track. (Breeze photo by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SMITHFIELD – Michael Colucci is among the many Smithfield residents who go to the Smithfield High School track to exercise. As he makes his loops around, he said he’d noticed a disappointing trend of cracks, chips and disrepair in the track and surrounding equipment.

“Our kids are being short-changed,” Colucci says.

Colucci wrote The Valley Breeze & Observer in August 2017 about the “eyesore and horrendous conditions at the Smithfield High School Athletic Complex.” At the time, he said the track was already cracking following approximately $90,000 in repairs the previous June.

Former School Committee Chairman Sean Clough said the district identified areas where the track needed repairs, and would work to fix it that month. The track was under warranty with East Coast Sealcoating Inc. two years ago.

“Fast forward to August 2019. It appeared the track conditions were never addressed and the conditions are worse than what they were in 2017,” Colucci said. “This is totally unacceptable and someone should be held accountable.”

Capital improvement funding of $500,000 for the school district was completely cut from the budget this year, said Supt. Judy Paolucci this week. She conceded that the athletic facilities need a lot of attention.

Paolucci came on board in Smithfield soon after Colucci’s original complaint in 2017. 

“If we don’t get it fixed in the next few years, we won’t be able to hold track meets there. That would be sad to go to somebody else to use their track. That’s really shameful,” Paolucci said.

She said costs to create a new athletic complex are estimated at around $4 million. She said she was hoping to do repairs in steps, doing the track first then moving onto the field, and so on.

“What are our options to find out how we are going to pay for this?” she asked.

Colucci said the corner of the track near the road on the side nearest the bleachers is where its condition is worst. With grass stalks nearly nine-inches tall poking through almost every lane and patching peeling up from the original rubberized surface, he said it is very likely the conditions could cause an injury.

“Look at this. Someone is going to sprain an ankle here,” he said.

Colucci said Smithfield students deserve an athletic complex they are proud of, not afraid to run on.

Pointing to the press box behind the bleachers, Colucci shakes his head looking at the empty patches made by peeling paint.

“Our kids deserve better. The town deserves better,” he said. “We don’t even have a decent bathroom here.”

He said the football field floods during the rain, and the grass is patchy in places. A small flock of geese landed on the track, proving the perpetrators’ identity of the piles of droppings on the track and surrounding grass.

For now, the football, soccer, and field hockey teams practice in the baseball field’s outfield. Colucci said it is an attempt not to destroy the football field’s grass.

“We just need a whole new complex,” Colucci said.

He said waiting another 10 years is unacceptable, but that may be what the school district has planned.

Paolucci said the town gives the school district on average between $250,000 and $270,000 each year for capital improvements. This year, the district did not receive any money for such work in preparation for payments on the $45 million elementary school reconfiguration bond.

She said without a consistent source of funding, there is not much the district can do.

School officials had previously planned to upgrade the high school auditorium with a new sound system, lights and other maintenance this year.

“I said we got to chew off a bit of this at a time, otherwise everything is going to fall apart,” Paolucci said.

She said the upgrades to the baseball field will begin soon, which includes putting in new dugouts and a new fence for the backstop. She said that project is ahead of schedule thanks to financial assistance from boosters.