Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 02-18-2021

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | FEBRUARY 18-24, 2021 WOONSOCKET 9 thorny topic. Last fall, Baldelli-Hunt renewed the conversation about mov- ing the city's athletic fields when she announced a plan shortly before the November election to finance the project with the sale of gravel from Cass Park. At the time, several mem- bers of the City Council and School Committee balked at the campaign- style rollout and said they'd received little advance notice of the plans. Since then, Baldelli-Hunt has con- tinued to seek the support of the council and School Committee on what could become a defining proj- ect of her administration. During a work session earlier this month, City Solicitor John DeSimone reaffirmed the support of the two boards would be essential to removing a deed restriction limiting Barry Field to ath- letic and educational use. "We would not begin that pro- cess and incur those costs and time and energy unless first the School Committee was on board and then the council," he said. While DeSimone said he would seek a vote of approval from both boards before pursuing the issue in Superior Court, Councilor James Cournoyer, speaking after him, said it was the School Committee, and only the School Committee, that had con- trol over the property. Reading from the original deed, he said the parcel had been set aside "for the purpose of athletic fields and playgrounds for the pupils of the public schools of the city of Woonsocket." "The deed is very clear, very specific. It says to use the property forever in trust for athletic fields and playgrounds, and then they give you some wiggle room to put up a school building," he said. The 22-acre parcel came under city control in 1926, when the city purchased it from the Woonsocket Agricultural, Horticultural and Industrial Society for $75,000. Its dedication on June 4, 1926, was marked by a 2-1 win over the Hope High School baseball team, the first of many athletic victories on the prop- erty. Woonsocket High School Principal Carnell Henderson reminisced about times spent at the field during com- ments to the School Committee last week. Both he and Supt. Patrick McGee were critical of Baldelli-Hunt's plans for Cass Park, saying that based on the renderings they've seen, there's not enough room for all of the play- ing space and practice fields currently located at Barry Field. "In terms of just the overall space to house equipment, players, what a clubhouse brings to Barry Field, we don't have any of that space in the rendition that I saw," Henderson said. He compared the plans to a car purchase, saying that while the Barry Field clubhouse might "need a make- over," the Cass Park space doesn't match what's needed. "The Porsche is me being selfish. The mini van is what I need," he said. Baldelli-Hunt responded to the comments in an email to The Breeze, questioning whether school adminis- trators also disagreed with improve- ments in recent years at the baseball field, softball field, basketball courts and tennis courts in and around Cass Park. She said any additional field development at Cass park will be an improvement for the residents and student-athletes of the city and said it's in the best interest of the city to move the projects forward. "Some folks are content with the status quo; we continue to work to improve the lives of residents and students in Woonsocket. Whoever doesn't recognize the benefit of an athletic complex possibly shouldn't be in the position they are in," she said. Baldelli-Hunt also said she hasn't received any questions about the proj- ect from Bourget despite his strong opposition. "The easy way out is to say, 'It can't be done.' I say, 'buckle down' and find a way," she said. Director of Public Works Steven D'Agostino also indicated a desire to move the field relocation for- ward with or without the Education Department's support. "Cass Park is a city park, we do not need Carnell Henderson's blessing or permission to move forward with improvements to our parks," he said. While Baldelli-Hunt accused Henderson and McGee of having a "change of heart" on the plans for Cass Park, the two administrators claimed during the meeting to have raised concerns about the amount of space several years ago when shown an early version of the renderings. Costa urged her fellow committee members not to make assumptions about the projects prior to a walk- through of Barry Field scheduled for Feb. 27 and a joint meeting with the council in March. Alan Leclaire said he saw no reason to sell Barry Field after the recommendations of the principal and superintendent, and Donald Burke said it went against the School Committee's mission. Lynn Kapiskas said she needed to see more work on the Cass Park plans before she could make a decision about Barry Field. "There's too many unanswered questions to really formulate a con- cise opinion," she said. With Baldelli-Hunt still indicating plans to move forward on the Cass Park portion, the two sides appear headed for showdown over the location of the city's athletic fields. Bourget said during the meeting the School Committee has hired its own attorney to look into the situation. BARRY FIELD From Page One It's a nter thing! Jerry "Ox" COurtemanChe James magee • RenÉ Blais appointments recommended Walk-ins When available All safety measures are taken Masks are required (401) 658-2711 3330 Mendon Rd. 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