Gov. Deval Patrick signed at the State House on Thursday morning a piece of legislation for Braintree that allows the town to more efficiently build a pool and ice rink at Braintree High School, an action that Mayor Joseph Sullivan said broke a "psychological barrier" after decades of wrangling over the Capt. Petersen Pool.
The home-rule petition permits a "design-build" approach, potentially saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars when the town goes out to bid in the next few months on an athletic complex that will involve a public-private partnership, with a company constructing and running the facility and Braintree contributing $1.5 million from an account established by Captain August Julius Petersen on his death in 1963.
The remaining funds in the account – which increased from $65,000 to about $2 million over the decades – are slated for improvements at Watson Park, including a splash pad and revamped walking trails.
"We're taking the right approach," Sullivan said after Patrick's signing. "The reality is that the long-awaited Petersen Pool is going to be built."
Approval of the bill, first by the House and Senate and now by the governor, clears the way for an evaluation committee, Sullivan said, comprised of Town Council and School Committee officials and several residents with particular knowledge in fields like engineering and construction, all of whom have yet to be determined.
The committee will decide on a request for proposal, followed by a groundbreaking in the spring of 2012, Sullivan said. An indoor pool and ice skating rink should be completed by early 2013, complementing new synthetic turf fields at the high school.
Sullivan said the town's contract with a developer will ensure ample time at both facilities for the public and Braintree's sports teams.
Under a 30 to 50-year contract the town will retain ownership of the land, between the football field and Granite Street, and will be able to take over or re-bid the property if the operator doesn't comply with the terms, Chief of Staff and Operations Peter Morin said at a meeting back in June.
Also attending the signing were Rep. Mark Cusack, D-Braintree, Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, Sen. Brian A. Joyce, D-Milton, Superintendent Dr. Peter Kurzberg, Chief of Staff and Operations Peter Morin, School Committee members Shannon Hume, David Ringius and Joe Zarrella, Town Councilors John Mullaney, Charles Kokoros, Leland Dingee, Tom Bowes and Henry Joyce, and Blue Hills School Committee member Germano Silveira.
Cusack said the project will make Braintree High "one of the premiere athletic sites on the South Shore."
"It's a great day for Braintree to get the special legislation signed into law that we've been working on basically for a year," Cusack said. "Hopefully by a year from now we can finally honor Capt. Petersen's wish to provide a pool to the children of Braintree."