TOWNSEND -- The Recreation Commission and the North Middlesex Regional School District are in the midst of discussing an inter-municipal agreement that would allow the commission access to the tennis courts and basketball courts outside of Hawthorne Brook Middle School. A draft of the agreement has been drawn up and both parties have a copy, but action is still pending, said Superintendent Joan Landers.
The agreement would provide mutual benefits for both parties, said Town Administrator Andy Sheehan.
The Recreation Commission would be able to use the tennis courts for the purposes of hosting activities and programs. Additionally, they would also be able to assist in maintenance of the courts by providing funds. The property will not be switching hands; the school district will retain ownership of the property.
"The agreement will lay out the parameters by which the Recreation Commission can use the courts and will also address the responsibilities each of the parties will have for maintenance and repairs," said Sheehan.
Currently, said Recreation Commission Chairwoman Sharon Whittier, the commission has already allocated $40,000 to use for the maintenance of the tennis courts; however, they are unable to spend the funds on the courts until after the agreement is signed.
"At this point, we as a board are not allowed to put funds towards a project that the land is not considered town-owned. Right now, that property is owned by the school district," she said. "Once (the agreement) is completed and signed and everything, we would be able to put funds into the project."
The stipulation falls under the state Anti-Aide Amendment, according to Sheehan. Municipal funds cannot be spent on a separate agency or district unless an agreement is in place.
This past spring, the Recreation Commission had originally wanted to use the $40,000 to build volleyball courts and tennis courts at a nearby site behind the library and senior center, Sheehan said.
"But the folks at Sterilite stepped in and basically said, instead of building something new, 'We've already got courts down in the woods, how about we help you renovate the existing courts? That way we leave the fields open and bring the old courts back into operation again,'" he said.
The tennis courts at Hawthorne Brook had been in disrepair and had gone unused for several years.
"We felt it would probably better serve everyone to repair something rather than build something new," said Gary Shepherd, representative for Sterilite on the project. In May, he said, the company went in and executed the project, which ran until September. They replaced the basketball courts and repaved the tennis courts, putting in new nets and fixing the fencing.
Due to the Anti-Aide Amendment, the Recreation Commission was unable to assist at the time. Sterilite took on the cost of the project . Shepherd would not discuss the cost of the project to the company.
"We never talk about money," he said.
Three years ago, the company had also had the library and senior center built at no cost to the town.
"At the end of the day, (the company) does it because they like to be a conscientious, good corporate citizen," said Shepherd. "They try to be generous and benevolent to the town."