Amesbury will not receive $600,000 state earmark for playing fields | News

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AMESBURY — The mayor is preparing to move forward after receiving word the city will not be receiving a $600,000 earmark from the state aimed for athletic field improvements.

Former state Rep. Mike Costello and former state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives successfully placed a $600,000 earmark, or likely budgeted amount, to build soccer fields for the Amesbury Soccer Association at Woodsom Farm in the FY 2014 state environmental bond bill yet the money never reached the city.

Mayor Kassandra Gove called on Amesbury residents in April to let Gov. Charlie Baker and then Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides know how valuable the funds would be for the city’s athletic fields.

State Rep. Jim Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, and state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, are also working to get the money released.

Gove said she, at large City Councilor Adrienne Lennon, and Amesbury Soccer Association President Paul Dombrowski, were on an April 5 call with then Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs undersecretary Beth Card who told them the state would not be releasing the $600,000 to the city after all.

According to Gove, Card explained that environmental bond bill funding is subject to appropriation and the EEA only receives $200 million from the state’s $2.6 billion capital plan. The EEA is a Cabinet-level agency within the governor’s administrations. Its goal is to promote wise energy use and protect the environment.

“They were emphasizing that they are a very small piece of the puzzle and don’t get to fund as many of the projects that have been requested. There are many other communities out there with requests and they can only do so much,” she said.

The mayor said she was discouraged to hear the city’s $600,000 earmark is not a priority for the state and added Amesbury will most probably not be seeking a re-authorization of the earmark which is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2023.

“This seems like a promise to the people without a lot of hope. There are a lot of people following this and who want to see the improvements made to the fields. With the loose end of a bond bill out there, it feels like there is money coming,” she said.

Gove added, however, that she is glad to have an answer from the state, once and for all.

“It has not been funded, year-over-year, since 2014 and it did not sound like it would be a priority, moving forward,” she said.

The city is currently regrouping with the Amesbury Soccer Association to come up with a new way to move the soccer field project forward according to Gove, who added the state suggested pursuing funding through potential state and federal grants.

The mayor said that is a process she and her administration are already well familiar with.

“We work closely with our legislators on these regularly, and we always apply for grants. We will explore other funding options and I’ve already begun working on those. We want to pursue avenues of alternate funding, understanding what our goal is, which is coming up with all of the money,” she said.

Dan Ouellet and the Newburyport Turf Company performed some volunteer work on the current athletic fields at Woodsom Farm. Amesbury officials are asking state legislators for a $250,000 earmark in the state operating budget to add to money the city sets aside for athletic field maintenance.

“It’s not enough money to [put] a shovel in the ground for this project but we have other fields that need attention. We can improve those to alleviate some of the pressure on rectangular field users, while we work on the larger capital project of building more fields at Woodsom Farm,” she said.

Baseball diamonds

Construction is also underway on the Sgt. Jordan Shay Memorial Lower Elementary School next to the Cashman Elementary School on Lions Mouth Road.

Although the elementary school project is due to be completed next spring, the plan necessitated the elimination of a pair of baseball diamonds and a concession stand that Amesbury Little League has called home for many years.

The mayor has come up with a plan to expand a Tee-ball field and a former Pony League field into Little League fields while also adding a concession stand at Town Park.

Public Works Director Rob Desmarais said rain has caused some delays at Town Park where the completion date has been pushed back from April 15.

According to Gove, the sod is expected to go in next week and construction is expected to be completed, weather permitting, by the end of May.

Little League will be able to play on the current softball field and baseball diamond at Town Park, where it had scheduled its annual jamboree over this past weekend but, according to Desmarais, the two new fields will need to go through a growing season before being used.

Amesbury Little League President Leigh Noyes said his organization will be renting a pair of fields from Salisbury Youth Baseball to get through the spring and summer seasons.

“We are just trying to get kids on the field and getting them used to the fact that sometimes, you have got to deal with what you are dealt and not sit there and complain about it. We’re just doing the best that we can,” he said.

The varsity baseball diamond at the high school is also in rough shape according to Desmarais, who said the improvement plan there is currently in the design phase and the project is expected to go out to bid after the season is over this summer.

(Editor’s note: EEA Secretary Theoharides announced April 27 that she is resigning from her post May 6. Card will be the new secretary.)

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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