NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – A new wrinkle was added to the Northbridge’s athletic field woes at a meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Monday night. John Berkowitz, representing the Oliver Ashton American Legion Post, said the property may be sold.
The town has had free use of fields and a parking lot owned by the legion on Church Street in Rockdale. Little League and Pop Warner football games have been played there for many years.
The legion, with its aging membership, is having financial difficulties, Berkowitz said. He asked the town to sign a six-month lease for the fields at a cost of $7,500. “Kids use the fields; they use our facilities. We just can’t be Santa Claus for the town anymore,’’ Berkowitz said.
The money could be appropriated but not until October at the Fall Annual Town Meeting, Town Manager Theodore Kozak said.
But the legion might not survive that long, Berkowitz said. “Things are tough. Two Realtors are very interested. ... If that’s the way we have to go, we may not have a choice,’’ he said.
The town is already short on athletic field space, Selectman James Marzec said. “If they take those fields offline now, what are we going to do? It will make an already bad situation worse. I would like to find the money now,’’ he said.
“I don’t see the town turning this down,’’ Selectman Thomas Melia said, saying he was unhappy that the decision can’t be made until Town Meeting. “You people have been donating to the town of Northbridge year after year. It’s about time the town gives back to you.’’
Marzec, appointed Monday night to represent the Board of Selectmen on a newly formed Ad Hoc Athletic Field Committee, said the legion fields will be among the issues addressed at the committee's first meeting, which has yet to be scheduled.
Also named to that committee were Northbridge High School Athletic Director Alan Richards, DPW Director James Shuris, School Facilities Director Paul Halacy, Playground and Recreation Commission member Robert Parker, and Whitinsville Christian School Athletic Director Leonard Krygsman.