Social and Political Commentary

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The Melrose High School chopped liver track teams.

... the teams were part of the price of our city government's "state of the art" athletic field complex at the High School.

by Joe Sullivan

Golf course money made expensive new features possible at the High School field.

“Why not use the money to buy laptop computers for the kids?” This was Ms. Dolores Cohen’s question at the September 9, 2009 Park Commission meeting at the Mount Hood Clubhouse. At issue was the construction of an athletic field at Mount Hood which would be paid for from revenue produced by the golf course.

Ms. Cohen, president of the Hoodwinks,  a group of Mount Hood lady golfers wanted to know why the excess money the golf course produced couldn’t be used for something other than a sports facility.

A question like hers would definitely have no place in a proposal that, for the next 25 years, Mount Hood revenue would be the sole source of money devoted exclusively to building a new athletic field complex to replace the existing one at the High School field. It‘s anticipated cost would be over $5 million.

That decision to devote all the Mount Hood money to the athletic field complex had already been made but only a very few people knew it. It was a secret.

Plan runs into problems.

The underlying reason for the Park Commission meeting that Ms. Cohen was attending was because the plan for the new complex had run into a snag. The huge sum that would be taken from the golf course provided for some new features that were not possible when the construction of an athletic field depended on city tax money.

The snag was not caused by lack of money but lack of space. The old High School field had a running track that had to be eliminated to accommodate the new features like the large new building that would be used for a ticket booth and refreshment stand and expanding the baseball field into an area once shared with the running track.

Of course if you eliminate the running track you also eliminate the high school track teams who depended on it unless another venue could be found for this high school sport.

Beals and Thomas, a top-notch consultant had been retained to determine the feasibility of locating the running track at Mount Hood.

Situation worse than anticipated.  

The results of the Beals and Thomas study only made the situation worse. The cost of constructing the running track at Mount Hood was prohibitive. It was so expensive that it would not leave enough money to fund the new athletic field complex at the High School.

The eviction of the track teams from their historic home at Melrose High was supposed to be remedied by relocating and building a new running track at Pine Banks. As a running track it is stunning. As a facility for track and field it is a stunning multi-million dollar failure.

Visiting track teams coming for a meet in Melrose will be advised to come dressed to compete because there are no dressing rooms . Also, be ready for an uncomfortable ride home because there are no showers to use after your event. Be sure, too, to tell your parents if they are coming to watch you compete to bring something to sit on like a lawn chair because there is no grandstand seating for people watching the events.

The consolation for the visitors is that the home team will be suffering these same lousy conditions.

To say that our track team kids have been treated like chopped liver is an understatement. But it’s what you get when the city government’s plans are kept secret and people who are affected by them get no opportunity to comment on what the plans propose.

Who decided inferior conditions were okay?

What’s unknown is who decided that the track teams’ field conditions at Pine Banks would be so inferior to what the football, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, and baseball teams enjoy at the High School field.

More appropriately, what’s also unknown is who decided that the parents of the track team would not get an opportunity to find out what was in store for their children. When the Aldermen voted for the new running track’s new location on October 4, 2010 these parents neither knew about nor had the opportunity to question the plan.

The plans were announced by the mayor at his press conference in the morning and approved by the Aldermen on the same night.    

If you are happy with an arrangement like this one the people who implemented it will be running for reelection next month. Unfortunately a number of them will be running uncontested and maybe, next time, you’ll be the one who’s the chopped liver.

October 4, 2013      


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