Rowe voters approve tennis court rehabilitation funding, $5.79M budget

By EMILEE KLEIN

For the Recorder

Published: 05-10-2023 3:35 PM

ROWE — Thirty-two voters approved all 31 articles on the warrants for a short Special Town Meeting and subsequent Annual Town Meeting on Monday, most of which concerned the fiscal year 2024 budget for government departments.

The total budget for fiscal year 2024 is $5.79 million. A majority of the articles relating to the budget for each department passed unanimously and without discussion or comment, including the nearly $1.77 million education budget that was not unanimously supported by the Finance Committee. The 2024 education budget is $75,000 less than the School Committee requested.

Finance Committee member Marilyn Wilson spoke out against spending more money to rehabilitate the Pelham Lake Park tennis courts after requiring the education cuts.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for money for recreation after forcing the school board to make cuts,” Wilson commented.

Tennis court rehabilitation

The approval of Article 4 on the Special Town Meeting warrant appropriates $45,000 to reconstruct a second tennis court at Pelham Lake Park. Voters approved using $100,000 to rebuild the first tennis court at the park last year due to the unsafe cracked pavement. The bid the Park Commission received to refurbish the court did not include removal of the second court.

Articles 1 and 2 on the warrant, which both passed unanimously, would cover the costs of pavement removal of the second court. According to Park Commission Chair Laurie Pike, Article 4 allowed voters to decide whether they wanted another court or a small patch of grass.

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“It just seemed to make sense to give the voters a chance to think about what is the most economical to do with a second court,” Pike said. “There are options for making it multi-use so it won’t [serve] one population.”

The courts include one tennis court and two pickleball courts. Pike also mentioned the possibility of adding other activities, such as four-square courts, to ensure there is “something for everyone.”

One member of the Finance Committee and all members of the Selectboard did not recommend the article. Resident Brett Williams mentioned that the tennis courts received a lot of opposition when Rowe first installed them in 1957. However, the courts became very popular through tennis lessons and summer programs. Ellen Miller affirmed the courts would still be used now.

“I know for a fact last summer every night until the fall, people were playing pickleball up there. So it will get the use,” Miller said.

Article 4 ultimately received the necessary two-thirds vote, thus allocating $45,000 to reconstruct the second tennis court.

Warrant amendments

Articles 20 through 21 were amended during the meeting, as two figures were incorrect on the warrant. Article 20 will take $260,000 from the Capital Stabilization Fund instead of $340,000. Finance Committee Chair Dan Pallotta explained the committee decided to use $80,000 from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money to fund a new fire truck.

Article 21, a motion to move free cash into the Capital Stabilization Fund, didn’t take into account the $3,000 approved during the Special Town Meeting. The number was changed from $21,457 to $18,457.

Article 19 appropriated $10,000 to develop demolition plans for the Gracy House. After comments from voters inquiring about repurposing the historic building, the Selectboard offered to amend the article to include “remediation and repurposing.”

“I think that we’ve been around and around about this issue. Once upon a time, we took a straw vote to see what to do. … The straw vote says to demolish it,” Finance Committee member Wayne Zavotka commented. “To add this amendment would be to put it off one more time.”

The amended article passed unanimously.

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