Social and Political Commentary

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The port-a-potties come home to roost

... How did our "state-of-the-art sports complex" end up with port-a-potties to take care of our Red Raider track team's sanitary needs?

by Joe Sullivan

The above photo shows the four port a potties at Pine Banks Park that are
supposed to take care of the sanitary needs of the players who use the eight
athletic fields at Pine Banks Park. They hardly fit the description found in Mayor
Dolan’s  plan for the proposed new athletic fields for the High School and Pine Banks.

The Pine Banks’ part of his plan was a description of a new regulation
running track. The running track would be relocated from the High School field
to the Pine Banks Park. This new track would be regulation size. It was not
regulation size at the high school. There were additional benefits at the
Pine Banks location. The plan included a new synthetic-turf playing field
located in the center of the track for soccer, lacrosse and T-ball plus a new,
lighted “state of the art” grass softball “complex"
All of the above new features would be shared with Malden. The sharing is
a requirement for any Pine Banks project. The facility was established on the
condition that all benefits are to be shared equally between Malden and Melrose.

The Mayor’s plan also listed the shared costs of the plan to each city,
$1.5 million each for Malden and Melrose. This would be the cost for both the
running track and the new, lighted, grass softball complex.A grant from the
State would provide another $500,000. Shortly afterward each city’s share
would be reduced to $1 million.

Given all these dramatic new benefits and their high costs, how could
port-a-potties be the answer to the sanitary needs for all of its young
players which would now include the members of the Red Raiders track teams?

Something that wasn’t included.

The answer comes from something that wasn’t included in the presentation.
If the aldermen voted to locate the new running track it would become part
of Pine Banks Park. Pine Banks Park is under the jurisdiction of the
Pine Banks Foundation which is operated by a Board of Trustees not the City of Melrose.

The Trustees consist of seven members, plus a descendant of the Converse
family former Malden Mayor Elisha J. Converse left the land for Pine Banks
in his will. The Trust is made up of seven members which includes its
President Henry Kaiser plus the Mayors of Malden and Melrose, two members
from Malden and two from Melrose. According to a phone call to Mr. Kaiser’s
office, the current members from Melrose are Mr. Kaiser himself and John Lynch.

The City of Melrose and the Pine Banks Foundation are two different entities
and the entity that has jurisdiction of the running track is The Pine Banks
Foundation. The notion that Melrose has moved its running track to Pine Banks
is fanciful. Melrose has eliminated its school running track and committed to
paying for the building of a running track at Pine Banks that it will not own.
Melrose will only be able to use it.

Different strokes for different Folks.

Since the City of Melrose and the Pine Banks Foundation are two separate
entities it should be expected that each has its own priorities.

A phone conversation in early July with Arthur Walsh who is the new
Park Superintendent said the toilet facilities at Pine Banks are closed because
they need to be repaired and the money is not available. The Trustees shut them
down and provided for seven port-a-potties, three for the picnic area,
and four for the athletic fields.

The consequent for Melrose was spending a million dollars for a running track
that now relies on sharing four port-a potties for sanitary needs.

This is much more of an issue for Melrose than Malden that has a running
track at Jack McDonald stadium with adequate sanitary facilities. In addition,
it has dressing rooms, showers, for the runners plus viewing stands.
None of these features are available for the Red Raider runners at Pine Banks.

Where the money comes from

The money to pay for the running track will come from the Mount Hood golfers.
The money they pay to play golf exceeds the money it cost to operate the course.
This excess is supposed to pay off the bonds needed to pay for the running track
and Fred Green Field at the high school.

The bond payments didn’t start until 2016 which means the city has been
accumulating the Mount Hood excesses since 2010. The irony is with the excess
account bulging with cash none of it can be spent on the malodorous
porta-a-pottie situation at the Pine Banks running track.

.The don’t look at us Aldermen

Don’t complain to your Alderman. They’re the ones who voted on
October 3, 2010 to locate and fund the running track at Pine Banks putting
it beyond the control of the city while committing the city to all the payments.

The reason given for the running track’s move to Pine Banks was the redesign
of what would become Fred Green Field at the high school. The redesign would
not allow the space necessary for a track. No explanation was ever given as to why
track and field was the sport that would have to move.

Ironically, unlike the running track, there was already a baseball field at Pine Banks.
The 2014-2015 Annual Report of the Pine Banks Superintendent lists High
School Boys Varsity and Junior Varsity Baseball as the first item on its
list of participant sports. In 2016 at Pine Banks. In the 2016 baseball
season Melrose’s schedule called for two of its 11 home games to be played at Pine Banks.

Why not move the baseball field?

With a $1 million cost to construct a new running track why not, instead,
move baseball to Pine Banks to a baseball field that was already there and
leave the running track at the High School? This would, of course leave the
use of the Melrose Baseball field under the jurisdiction of The Pine Banks
Foundation but it would not involve the $1 million construction cost associated
with building the running track.

A question that arises is why would the Aldermen approve a plan that
disenfranchises the young people who participate in track and field
in order to build Fred Green Field with its features like dressing rooms, showers,
and viewing stands? Wouldn’t the taxpayer parents of the kids who run track be
against such a discriminatory plan that excludes their kids from almost all of
the benefits that would be available at Fred Green Field?

The reason these taxpayer parents didn’t have the opportunity to object was
their Aldermen made sure that they never had the opportunity to do so. The plan
had been kept secret through a series of misrepresentations, manipulation,
fake proposals and the use of a ten-minute “special Aldermen meeting” to keep
the plan from the taxpayers who would be directly affected by it. The plan
was approved by the Aldermen on the same day it was announced. The Mayor
had presented the plan at a press conference in the morning and the Aldermen
voted to approve it that same night.

Hey Ho, who took the dough?

Why the Aldermen would be so enthusiastic with their approval could have been
the knowledge that the money for the fields would come from the Mount Hood
golfers. In 1936 when the Massachusetts State legislature established
Mount Hood Park and Golf Course it did so by passing General Law 124.
The law had stipulated some restrictions. One of them was to restrict any money
produced at Mount Hood must be spent at Mount Hood.

What the Board of Aldermen would do to avoid the restriction was to seek
special legislation from the State Legislature which would neutralize this
limitation. After the Aldermen had passed the legislation at its
October 4, 2010 meeting State Senators Tom Magee, Richard Tisea and
Representative Catherine Clark pushed the special legislation through the
State Legislature until it was approved by the Governor.

The new special legislation neutralized the money spending restriction in
Law 124 and allowed the city to take “excess” money produced by the golf
course operation and after approvals, first by the Park Commission        
and then the Aldermen and Mayor let them spend it on the bonds that would
fund the recreation projects.

To take money from Mount Hood is one thing, to limit the money to recreation
projects is another. Who decided the money would be limited to this is a
question that will never be answered. But it’s something that can be done
when an approval process is conducted in secret.

This also explains why the Aldermen approved a running track that had so
many deficiencies and, additionally, gave up the control of it to the
Pine Banks Board of Trustees. The Aldermen needed a running track, no matter
how lousy, to couple it with the Fred Green Field to offer the
state-of-the art athletic fields complex. The complex was to justify the
“special legislation” that lets the city get at the Mount Hood money.
This presents a new operation scenario for Mount Hood which is: the less
money used to operate the course the bigger the “excess” will be. This means
it won’t be too long before the course ends up like the running track.
The now secret Mount Hood “excess” money.

The first payment on the bonds funding Fred Green Field and Pine Banks started
this year. In the meantime the city, since 2010 has been collecting the excess
money from the Mount Hood operation. Just try and find out how much the
excess has been each year. The city’s claim is the excess is contained in the
city's accounting process that they will show you but claim the reason you
can’t determine the excess is that you just do not understand this accounting
procedure. A curious reason since the excess is one number.Surely the city
will understand that some people suspect that the excess is being buried in
the city’s free cash account to keep anyone from knowing how much it is.

It wasn’t always that way. In January 2011 the Aldermen’s Public Service
Committee voted to approve the transfer of $245, 814 (excess) from the city’s
free cash account to the Mount Hood Reserve Fund bringing it to $810,179.

The $245,814 was the excess produced by the golf course in 2010. If the
course averaged the same excess each year from 2011 to 2015 it would have
amounted to over $1.2 million.

We’ll letcha' know later

This is not an encouraging sign for the Mount Hood golf course that has  
produced a lot of money but not a dime of it will go to improvements of the course.  
The city is using the golf course as a cash cow, undoubtedly, to finance plans that will be as
secret as the Fred Green Field and the running track were. No one will know
what the plans are until the night the Aldermen approve them. As with the Red
Raider track team we’ll have to wait and see who ends up with the port-a-potties.

Joe Sullivan has a senior membership at our Mount Hood Golf Course and is a city taxpayer.

September 2, 2016    



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