It’s often been stated that perception is reality. The perception that the town is ignoring the will of the people concerning Black Point Park is not reality in any way, shape or form. The fact is the town is doing exactly what we said we would do if the referendum vote for a large scale park failed.

Thanks to Brendan Moran for researching the archives to validate that the town would level out the field and put in a small parking lot for general use open space. His research also stated that the neighbors thought the 11 acres was unsightly and that space was needed for kids to play pick-up games. The general work being done is to satisfy the aforementioned concerns. I can state unequivocally that the Town Council has been crystal clear in stating on the public record that a large-scale park will not be built on this site.

Unfortunately, the writer didn’t do her homework prior to publishing a column (July 24, “An inevitable march to a sports field?”) that is likely to stir up negative opinions about this issue. First off, the park was not being built when the bulldozers first appeared on the site. The town decided to keep the loam from the high school athletic field when the sports turf was put in two summers ago. The contractor could have sold the loam for profit, but town staff thought it to be prudent to keep an asset to defray future costs. The obvious place to store the loam was at a site with a proposed park plan.

Secondly, the plan to build the park wasn’t brought to referendum because of the vigilance of the voters. The credit for this goes to councilors Richard Sullivan, Ronald Ahlquist and Shawn Babine. These three gentlemen constituted the Town Council Finance Committee that reviewed the budget request submitted by staff. At the April 17, 2007, meeting of the Finance Committee, without any input from the public, they voted unanimously to remove the Black Point Park project from the budget because they believed this expenditure would be in violation of the Town Charter, thus requiring a public vote.

Third, the columnist is incorrect in stating that Memorial Park was built “over time in small increments.” All facets of Memorial Park were built simultaneously. The town obtained a legal opinion that stated each of the four major components could be funded seperately rather than a lump sum, which would have required a public vote. The drainage work had to be done as part of the expansion of Scarborough High School. The skateboard park was funded several years earlier and was scheduled to be built at the skating rink. It was later determined this site wouldn’t hold up over time so it was put behind Town Hall so the activity could be monitored. The athletic field and the park were considered to be seperate entities.

All facets of Memorial Park were under $400,000, with the exception of the park aspect. Due to the generousity of the Risbara family, which made over $200,000 of in-kind contributions for the rock walls and gazebo, the cost to the taxpayer for the park portion remained under the $400,000 limit and, for that, we are forever grateful.

It may seem unusual to have separate components at the same site, but it does happen from time to time. A good example would be the high school sports complex, which collectively cost about the same as Memorial Park. The sports complex recent expenditures were for bleachers, resurfacing the track, sports turf and the multi-purpose building.

Lastly, while we are all very appreciative of the outstanding work of the 350th Committee, it is not at all accurate to state that the expenses were paid for with private fundraising rather than at taxpayer expense. The fact is that half of the net budget for this event ($100,000) was taxpayer funded, not to mention the hundreds of hours of staff time appropriated to help make the event a success. The columnist was on the committee and I would assume have access to the financial reports.

Maybe a litle more homework the next time around could make the column a little more factual.

Jeffrey Messer is chairman of the Scarborough Town Council.

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