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In The Arena

In the Arena: Playing hardball with the MIAA

If anyone is looking for a spare photo of 2nd Hampshire state Rep. John Scibak, you might want to check the dartboards in the executive offices of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Scibak isn’t too popular with that organization these days, mostly because he had the audacity to file a bill that would end the practice of forcing student-athletes from having to choose between taking their SATs and competing in MIAA tournament games.

Regular readers of The Recorder’s sports page are probably aware of the plight of several members of the Turners Falls and Hopkins Academy baseball teams, who had to make that Hobson’s Choice when the MIAA refused to alter its playoff schedule to accommodate the standardized tests. At least one of the Hopkins parents called Scibak, who called the MIAA’s executive director’s office and was basically told, “tough luck.”

“They said ‘we’ve done it this way for 25 years, and the schedule is posted in September, and the students should plan accordingly,’” Scibak said. “But what high school junior knows in September if they are going to be playing in a baseball tournament game in late spring?”

Scibak said he was also taken aback at what he called the “bullying tactics” from some MIAA officials when he filed the bill, that mandates that no high school sporting events be scheduled before 2 p.m. on days when SAT tests are being conducted.

“It strikes me as odd that people who deal with high school kids — particularly given some of the history in the community I come from (South Hadley) — would try to bully and threaten me like that,” Scibak said. “If they had just been willing to work on a compromise, there would be no need for this type of legislation.”

Scibak said his bill — which picked up 62 co-sponsors within four hours of its filing — will be the focus of a committee hearing next month at a date and time to be determined. Any parents or students interested in testifying should contact Scibak’s Boston or district offices for more information.

Mayor mulls noise ordinance

If you are reading this column aloud in Greenfield today, be sure and keep your voice down, because it looks like the town is about to get its first-ever noise control ordinance.

The operative word being “looks,” because, as I’m writing this, Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin has not decided whether to sign or veto the ordinance passed by the Town Council last week.

“I’m going to take a few days to review it and look at how other communities, which have these, have handled them,” Martin said less than 24 hours after the council vote. “I think it’s difficult to pass laws intended to modify behavior. We’ve already seen laws that haven’t been all that successful in that regard.”

Martin says he understands the position of ordinance supporters like outgoing Council President Mark Wisnewski, who said during last week’s debate that Greenfield residents have a “right” to live in peace and quiet, if they so choose. But Martin also has not been shy about his concerns regarding the enforcability of the new regulations, especially the section that establishes a sound “buffer zone,” that was originally 25 feet before the council agreed to expand it to 50 feet at the urging of At-Large Councilor Mark Maloni.

“That’s a tough one, because we’ve got a lot of homes in this town which are separated by a lot less than 25 or even 50 feet,” Martin said, adding that a council resolution setting minimum noise standards might be more appropriate than a full-blown ordinance that, in certain cases, levies a $50 fine for a first offense.

If Martin does decide to veto, there probably aren’t enough votes to override it. Councilors Brickett Allis, Karen Renaud and Steve Ronhave all voted “no” on the original motion, and, though Maloni voted “yes” to the amended motion, he didn’t seem entirely sold on the idea. And I’m guessing incoming councilors Isaac Mass and Penny Ricketts aren’t supporters of this ordinance, but even if they were, it is unlikely that they would vote to override Martin in their first vote out of the gate.

Pipeline hearing

Speaking of the “new” council, it holds its first meeting Tuesday, but not before the old council will depart with what will likely be a bang the night before.

That’s when the Community Relations and Education Committee will hold a public hearing on a proposed nonbinding resolution opposing the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s plan to string a natural gas pipeline through the area.

“This is an important issue and we really want to get the word out about the hearing,” committee Chairwoman Karen Renaud said. “This project will affect a lot of people, and we want to hear what they think.”

That meeting and hearing begins at 6:30 Monday night at the Greenfield Planning Department’s Main Street offices, and is open to all members of the public, not just Greenfield residents.

Chris Collins is news director/managing editor of WHAI FM and Bear Country 95.3. He is a former staff reporter for The Recorder and a Greenfield native.

The hearing on the MIAA bill will be held on Thursday, July 10th at 10:00 am in Room A-2 at the State House.

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