Winter Town Meeting Likely Put On Ice As Skating Rink Pushed Up Against Party Primaries

Photo: Jack Weiss speaking to the Select Board on slowing down the process of approving a new skating rink.

The prospects of Town Meeting Members putting on their heavy coats and boots early in 2020 to attend a rare winter Special Town Meeting to approve two important requirements for a new town skating rink appears to have been put in the deep freeze.

The “special” scheduled for Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 to approve a public land sale for the rink as well as the approval of a new zoning bylaw to allow for a recreational building to be constructed will likely be shelved at the Select Board’s meeting this Monday, Oct. 7, due to the town needing to prepare for the 2020 Massachusetts Presidential Primary set for Tuesday, March 3.

According to town officials, the dates are too close to allow proper preparation for either events in such a short time frame.

It now looks likely the issue of the public/private agreement and the new bylaw will be taken up during the annual Town Meeting which will convene in late April 2020.

The date change to next spring for the new skating rink proposal [see what the new rink will be comprised of here] to come before Town Meet is in stark contrast to the lightning speed town and school officials had initially hoped the proposal to have taken place. The first version called for the bid to be accepted, a lease created, the Town Meeting vote and a contract awarded by December 2019.

Town and school officials pushed for the fast track approval process as the town’s existing ice surface, the nearly 50 year old ‘Skip’ Viglirolo Skating Rink adjacent Harris Field off Concord Avenue, is on the verge of failing. Without a replacement, the town would need to secure ice time for the high school hockey programs at a considerable hit to the school department budget.

But after listening to residents – such as Jack Weis and Bob McGaw – who warned at a public meeting last month that a project done in haste could result in costly mistakes, the Select Board in September extended the procurement of a public/private partnership by an additional 15 weeks. Rather than a mid-December date for the school committee signing a final lease with the winning bidder, the new date for the lease signing will be in late March 2020.

But this latest delay will now push the final lease signing into May 2020.

The additional two months will also allow residents who questioned the rink’s location, traffic generation and hours of operation to campaign for restrictions to be placed in the lease to mitigate those concerns.

It is reported that residents led by Anne Paulsen are seeking town wide support to locate five tennis courts on the new Middle and High School property in the general area of the proposed rink.

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