Cumberland seeking townwide vote on $2.5 million in recreation upgrades

Cumberland seeking townwide vote on $2.5 million in recreation upgrades

CUMBERLAND – A resolution approved by the Town Council on Tuesday would allow the town to call a vote this fall on up to $2.5 million in borrowing for local recreation improvements.

The wording on what the money would be used for is intentionally vague for now, said Mayor Jeff Mutter this week, but specific plans would be well spelled out before November.

Among the uses for the money, he told The Breeze, would be future athletic field improvements to the Mercy Woods property in the northeast corner of town.

The resolution unanimously approved on Tuesday endorses and supports the development, construction, renovation, improvement, alteration, repair and equipping of recreational areas and facilities in the town and all costs related thereto.”

Voters, if the measure is now approved for the ballot by the General Assembly, would have their say in the Nov. 3 election on whether to spend the money.

Mutter said there’s some symmetry between administrations on the Mercy Woods project. What sometimes happens is that one administration has an objective, in this case former Mayor Bill Murray and the council purchasing Mercy Woods as open space, and another administration then comes in and everything the previous administration worked toward “kind of gets lost,” he said.

Part of the reason Murray advocated for the purchase was to relieve the town’s space issues with its athletic fields and relieving a situation of not being able to let fields rest, he said.

If the town doesn’t put the measure on the ballot this year, said Mutter, it will have to wait two years or hold a special vote next year.

“This would be to allow it to get on the ballot, make a proposal and see if the residents approve that,” he said. “It’s not like anybody’s saying we’re obligated to do it at this point, but we need to do it to start the process.”

Mutter said there are multiple pieces of public spending up in the air, including an $83 million school bond and borrowing for road repairs, so the goal is to make sure new spending fits in with the town’s financial goals. This does not commit the town but removes a legislative hurdle to get it on the ballot to see what voters think.

With the Mercy Woods plan specifically, the town can’t do the work yet under its agreement with the Sisters of Mercy, he said, but the fields would eventually need to have water connections to work.

Other ideas for the $2.5 million include seed money for a turf field and converting the full-sized baseball field at Diamond Hill Park into a multi-purpose field. Mutter said he also has a goal of turning the Garvin field into a top-notch Little League field. Cumberland has a great baseball tradition that’s deserving of a first-rate facility, he said.

The goal is to spend the money on the places that get the lion’s share of activity in town, the “our big features” that people drive by and see crowds at, said the mayor. The goal is to “touch a little of everything,” but it will be up to the council how specific the ballot measure gets.

The reason this resolution was brought up so quickly was because it needs to be approved for the ballot by Aug. 5, he said, adding that it “opens up opportunities” for the town.

By using general language instead of spelling out specific projects, it helps the town avoid restricting itself to certain uses, particularly if some items end up being more costly than others, said the mayor. Everything done must fit within a financial plan.

Comments

There should be a moratorium on spending until the full economic effect of the pandemic is figured out.

Stop with the baseball crap. Fewer youths play baseball every year and other sports are growing fast. We have far too many baseball fields in town. Lets cut spending on that and focus on other sports that require different field layouts. It's absurd that youth sports other than baseball in this town only have diamond hill which results in the overuse and terribly poor field conditions. As a coach of several youth sports not named baseball it's embarrassing when teams come from out of town and see diamond hill. And we don't need another turf field that no one is allowed to use. Cumberland can do better.

gotta say - I agree with coach. We don't need more baseball fields.

Cumberland has diverse fields at Tucker Field and behind the High School and also at Diamond Hill. Baseball is fine and to upgrade some would be fitting. A multi purpose turf field would be desirable. Tucker has basketball, tennis, softball, baseball, football track and additional soccer field. Lots of options. Diamond Hill could be turned into a prime location with some upgrades and Mercy Woods certainly would have possibilties.