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No Movement on Petersen Pool and Ice Rink Deal

Tugboat Capt. Julius Petersen left money for a pool to Braintree. The fund grew over the decades to $2 million.

Mayor Sullivan at the opening of the Petersen Splash Pad at Watson Park in Braintree. Credit: Joe Markman
Mayor Sullivan at the opening of the Petersen Splash Pad at Watson Park in Braintree. Credit: Joe Markman
Braintree youth hockey parents, looking ahead to next season, are wondering where their children will play.

Randolph may be closing Zapustas Ice Arena after it has gone under-utilized, and Braintree has had long-standing plans to build an ice rink along with an indoor pool at the high school, but that project stalled after the mayor selected a developer last spring.

On Thursday evening, youth hockey participants will bring their concerns to the Town Council. Mayor Joseph Sullivan said he will be in attendance, and that he understands their anxiety.

"This has taken longer than I want," Sullivan said. "But I'm focused on it. We’re close but we’re not there yet.”

Last July at Watson Park, Braintree celebrated the opening of the Petersen Splash Pad, which utilized a portion of the money tugboat Capt. Julius Petersen left to the town 50 years ago. 

Sullivan, after unveiling a new vision for the much fought-over project in December 2010, had originally hoped to break ground on the athletic complex at Braintree High School in 2012 and have it operating by the end of 2013.

The town offered bidders $1.5 million from a fund set up in Petersen's name after he died in 1963. Petersen originally put aside $65,000, growing over the years to more than $2 million.

Sullivan chose a developer last year from two bidders whose plans to design, construct and operate the pool and ice rink were deemed unsatisfactory by an evaluation committee consisting of town officials and community members.

The town remains in negotiations with the selected developer – Quincy attorney Robert W. Norton – with the main sticking point still being the balancing of construction costs and liability between Norton and the town, Sullivan said.

"We have to be careful about overextending ourselves on a skating rink and having a liability that we didn’t fully measure," the mayor said.

Sullivan said he is concerned that it is taking this long to make a deal, but that he is confident it will get done.

Yet Sullivan also said he also does not want to be "the boy who cried wolf" and establish an unrealistic timeframe for the project. He said going back out to bid is an option, but not yet one the town is considering.

Other options also remain.

Legislation signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick two years ago allowing a "design-build" approach for the athletic complex also allows for the developer to move ahead with either the rink or pool first.

The rink could not, however, be constructed first using any of the $1.5 million from the amount Capt. Petersen gave to the town 50 years ago unless infrastructure common to both the rink and pool were included.

A pool could be built first or on its own, but the rink cannot be built altogether separately from the pool.

Sullivan said he must prioritize how much taxpayer money goes into the project, especially with other capital needs such as school space requiring attention. 

"I fully understand the desire of the hockey parents," he said. "I'm with them. But that desire has to balanced with making good decisions financially.”    

The council meeting, rescheduled because of the snow storm from Tuesday, will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 23 at Town Hall.

Correction: Randolph officials have yet to decide on the closing of the Zapustas rink. 
Matt January 23, 2014 at 03:17 PM
Yea it does have to do with tax payers money. And yea the town loves to spend money. But what does a hockey rink have to do with over crowding?
Jen L January 24, 2014 at 09:23 AM
Any update on the meeting last night?
Joseph Markman January 24, 2014 at 09:27 AM
Working on it for today, Monday morning latest. Sullivan said mostly same as above, but did say that Randolph Manager Dave Murphy said Zapustas will be open next season. I'm working on confirming that and writing up youth hockey's concerns as relayed by Tom McDonough.
John Sanford January 24, 2014 at 01:18 PM
Thanks Joe For staying on top of it. I don't think the Mayor answered anything. The fact the Randolph is staying open only give him relief from his promises.
kim. mitchell January 25, 2014 at 10:51 AM
No one is thinking about the kids of this town. Its a shame.

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