NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – A grant writer from the Central Mass. Regional Planning Commission will be asked to attend an upcoming meeting of the Northbridge Ad Hoc Fields Committee.
The fields committee was appointed by the Board of Selectmen last summer after voters rejected a $900,000 proposal to install artificial turf at Lasell Field.
Members are tasked with reviewing the condition and use of each of the town’s athletic fields and coming up with a plan to improve and maintain the fields, several of which lack irrigation systems.
Northbridge Planner Gary Bechtholdt, who has grant-writing experience, attended a meeting of the group on Monday at the committee’s request, but he clarified he is not specifically a grant writer.
He said, however, that Central Mass. Regional Planning Commission recently hired a grant writer who might be more familiar with grants geared to the needs of the committee. He offered to contact the agency and arrange for the grant writer to attend a future meeting.
Committee member Selena Livingston said she wrote several unsuccessful grants for the Friends of Lasell Field Committee. The town was eligible, she said, but they were matching grants and the town did not have the required match.
“There are opportunities out there for grants, but there are criteria to be eligible and to be competitive,’’ Bechtholdt explained.
With matching grants, Bechtholdt explained, the money has to be appropriated up front and then the town is reimbursed.
Another problem for Northbridge is it does not have an approved open space plan, often a requirement when applying for grants of this type, Bechtholdt said.
An Open Space Committee appointed several years ago never prepared a report. The Planning Board will be forming a new open space committee soon, he said.
Selectman James Marzec, who represents selectmen on the fields committee, said he will stress the importance of the open space committee to that board.
Bechtholdt also suggested the town look again at the Community Preservation Act, a state program through which property owners pay a surcharge of up to 3 percent which must be used for open space protection, historic preservation and the provision of affordable housing.
In addition to discussing grants, the committee met with representatives of youth lacrosse and soccer associations to discuss field use.