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Petersen Pool Money Sparks Creative Development, Mayor Says

Mayor Sullivan said on Wednesday night that the athletic complex planned for the high school would enhance Braintree's future prospects.

At Wednesday night's information session at  on the  Athletic Complex and Petersen Pool, Mayor Joseph Sullivan likened the proposal to his mother's description of her dressed-up outfits, as in "something old, something new and something borrowed."

The old part, Sullivan said, is the $65,000 gift to Braintree from Captain August Julius Petersen on his death in 1963 for a pool at  that has since increased in value to $1.8 million. Under the proposal, that money would go toward a combined pool and hockey rink with an estimated cost of between $7.5 million and $10 million.

For nearly 50 years the town has tried to place the pool at Watson, Sullivan said, but "we didn't get it done as a community, and we need to get it done."

What's new is the hockey rink, which would be operated along with the pool by a private company who would lease the land from the town. Funding for synthetic turf on the football field and on a multi-sport field next to the school would be borrowed, by way of a $2 million, 15-year bond requiring approval from the . Lease payments from the company would help defray the cost to the town.

"We've got to test the marketplace," Sullivan told a group of Braintree residents, local officials and high school swimmers. "The economy itself actually lends itself to a competitive marketplace."

A Request for Proposals (RFP), written with language assuring the school sports teams and locals preferential use times and rates, is likely to be issued early next month, Sullivan said, with final bids awarded sometime near the end of March.

Some members of the community have expressed disappointment with the idea that the pool will not be built at Watson Park as Petersen outlined in his will.  The town received permission from the Norfolk Probate and Family Court in 2006 to build elsewhere, as long as it was the closest reasonable location, town councilor Leland Dingee said after the meeting.

Dingee, like many others in Braintree, has been working to get the pool built for decades. Dave Oliva, chair of the East Braintree Civic Association, questioned whether residents would benefit as much from the complex with a private company running it.

"Captain Petersen never said anything about a hockey rink or fields, so I don't care what you do about that," he said. "I just want to make sure the people that live here get to use the pool."

Shannon Hume, a school committee member, wondered if the town would be held liable for injuries at the facility.

Based on the wording being developed for the RFP, whatever company wins the bid would be responsible, said Peter Morin, the mayor's chief of staff. Sullivan reiterated that the contract will also make sure locals get a discount on the fees and that there are times set aside for community skating and swimming hours.

"We want to provide as much opportunity to our community and our student athletes as possible," athletic director Michael Denise said.

Sullivan also worked on Wednesday night to assure the public that Watson Park will not be neglected. The plan is to take about $300,000 of the just over $1.8 million in Petersen's account and construct a splash pad, walking trail and picnic area in the park, to be completed sometime next summer. Parking issues in the area will also be scrutinized and more spaces may be added where there are currently seldom-used tennis courts.

"[Petersen] will not be, nor will Watston Park be forgotten," Sullivan said.

One resident who appreciated that sentiment, and who has been working for 20 years on the project, is Paul Wasil, former chair of a committee set up for the purpose.

He described after the meeting how difficult it became to locate the pool at Watson as the years rolled by because it evolved into a large complex of baseball fields. It would not be feasible to put a junior Olympic-sized pool (as recommended at the high school) at the park today, Wasil said, adding that a splash pad, with water circulated through interactive devices like tubes and fake mushrooms sprinklers, is a better option.

"That will be a nice improvement," he said.

The mayor stressed that the designs and the costs he presented were just hypotheticals based on informal interest generated so far. A full bidding process early next year will sort out the final shape of the project. School committee members will also be able to weigh in again before construction begins. They at their Dec. 13 meeting.

Another detail that could end up saving the town money -- in addition to the private leasing fees -- is a process called cogeneration, whereby the would set up a generator at the complex to convert excess energy used for heating into cooling.

Such a modern facility, including space for expansion to a second sheet of ice, could entice visitors from all over the state and region to come for tournaments and stay at the nearby hotels, Sullivan said.

"This is an exciting proposal," he said. "It lends itself to greater use beyond the community."

Youth sports leagues will also be able to take advantage of the new facilities. William Fitzgerald, a member of the board of directors of Braintree Pop Warner, said before the meeting that right now the league has to rent space from , and other schools. The fields are grass and if it rains games often have to be rescheduled, a problem that could be mitigated by synthetic turf.

"It would be huge for us," Fitzgerald said.

Bill Hutchinson March 23, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Odd that you would seek an opinion or comment from William "Fitzy" Fitzgerald relative to youth sports, he is a tyrant and a bully when it comes to all that is youth sports. Ask anyone in Braintree National baseball if he is worthy of public comment...
Joseph Markman (Editor) March 23, 2011 at 08:06 PM
Given his position within the Braintree youth sports establishment, I thought it relevant to seek his opinion. As for Mr. Fitzgerald's character, I'll leave that discussion for members of the community, and would ask that we keep comments on this site away from personal attacks. All said, thanks for reading and for interacting. I look forward to covering spring sports and learning more about the baseball leagues in particular.
greg hargrave July 20, 2011 at 04:47 PM
Our family is new to Braintree, so the Petersen Pool project is new to us. After reading the articles, I'm still confused as to how the facilities will be used. How will it be split among public, school and use by leagues such as pop warner?
Joseph Markman (Editor) July 20, 2011 at 05:55 PM
The new turf fields at the high school, both the football field and the multi-use field, will be used by the high school and other organizations as they are now. That project has been separated from the other and is only funded by town bond. The pool and skating rink is partially funded by Petersen money. The rest will come from whatever company ends up signing a contract with the town. Use of the pool and rink will be laid out in the lease that the town and the company end up signing, probably this fall. Officials have said that there will be time set aside for public and organizational use, but nothing is concrete until the lease is reviewed by a committee and then signed. Hope that helps.
Landon Smith October 09, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I don't think every school should have a swimming pool. That just doesn't really seem like the best use of funds. However if they hired reasonable swimming pool contractors like Ottawa then I guess they could get away with a much cheaper construction bill. http://www.campbellpools.ca

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