With a little help, Pawtucket now maintaining McCoy

With a little help, Pawtucket now maintaining McCoy

The city of Pawtucket is now responsible for maintaining McCoy Stadium. (Breeze photo by Robert Emerson)

PAWTUCKET – Lacking the city staffing to properly maintain McCoy Stadium now that the Pawtucket Red Sox franchise has mostly left the building, the city has hired an outside contractor to do the work.

The Department of Public Works has not been responsible for managing and maintaining McCoy for decades now, said Acting DPW Director Dylan Zelazo, and doesn’t have the capacity to do so now.

“With the COVID-related budget challenges the city is facing, and our need to control costs as well as our ongoing attempts to avoid layoffs, adding multiple specialized staff would not be appropriate at this time,” he said. “Instead, the most cost-effective solution for the city was to engage an outside contractor with the expertise to handle these functions.”

City Council members last week asked a series of questions about the arrangement at McCoy, including the $6,500-per-month deal with the Peregrine Group to maintain the property.

Councilor Mark Wildenhain, who serves on the city property committee, was among those who said he wonders if the agreement should have gone through that committee, as well as whether it should also have gone out to bid. He also asked whether the cost for maintenance might be rolled into an ongoing lawsuit from the city against the PawSox for leaving the city with a substandard facility to take care of.

Council members also asked about the month-to-month lease agreement the team continues to be under to use a portion of the stadium, as well as how much of the cost for the maintenance other parties are having to cover.

Zelazo told The Breeze that officials followed all appropriate rules and regulations, receiving Purchasing Board approval to do so. The costs associated with the contract are more than offset by revenue associated with the license agreements the city has negotiated with the state COVID-19 operation at McCoy and the PawSox as licensees, he said.

“As such, this is a revenue-positive arrangement for Pawtucket taxpayers at a facility that would otherwise be completely vacant currently and costing them money at a time when they can least afford it,” he said.

The city is now solely responsible for upkeep with the PawSox lease expiring at the end of February and the state declining to continue its partnership with the city at the site, said Zelazo.

“As the mayor has said many times, including in The Valley Breeze last month, the city’s primary responsibility continues to be to preserve and protect our taxpayers’ investments at the site,” he said. “As acting DPW director, carrying out that responsibility largely falls to me and our hardworking, dedicated team at DPW.”

As the sole landlord, the city has negotiated temporary license agreements that continue to provide value for city taxpayers, he said.

Most importantly and significantly, he said, the state is partnering with the city and private sector partners to operate a large COVID-19 test site at McCoy, and officials are also working on expanding COVID-19-related services at the site to help the community recover from and become more resilient “to this terrible virus.”

The PawSox have a temporary license agreement with the city to use some space in the facility for storage while they transition their operations, he said.

“This space would have otherwise been vacant. Instead, the city is now realizing revenue that is offsetting its costs associated with operating the building,” he said. “Additionally, our state and private partners are responsible for a share of the utility costs at the facility while they are there.”