By Joan F. Simoneau, Community reporter
Marlborough – City councilors approved a local sales tax on restaurant meals originating in the city and designated the funds to upgrade and add more athletic fields. The action took place at the Dec. 16 meeting which was attended by more than 50 local sports coaches, athletic directors, youth participants, and parents who applauded enthusiastically after the decision was made.
Voting against the .75 percent meals tax were councilors Edward Clancy, Kathleen Robey, and Michael Ossing. Joining them in opposition to establishing the special Parks and Fields Development Special Revenue Fund was Councilor Mark Oram. Councilor Matt Elder excused himself from participating in the two orders because he uses the city's athletic fields for his business, which may be considered a potential conflict of interest.
Councilor Joseph Delano Jr., who co-sponsored the new tax and revenue fund with Council President Patricia Pope, said: “We have an opportunity for a great healthy endeavor for our city. We have needed it for years – to help youth sports activities and support our adults who also use the fields and parks.”
Speaking in opposition, Clancy questioned the accountability of the funds and how they would be allocated on an ongoing basis. Pope said Mayor Arthur Vigeant would appoint a committee to work with him and the council to distribute the funds. As with the city's budget, the council will maintain control.
“We can always vote to abolish it if it is not working,” she said.
Councilors Clancy and Robert Seymour stressed the need for addressing the lights at Kelleher Field which they said should be considered a priority for the funds.
“We should also have a tournament director which will help put us on the map like with Forekicks [indoor sports complex] and the MEDC [Marlborough Economic Development Corporation],” said Seymour. “It's an opportunity for all to get out there and take advantage of all we can offer.”
Strongly supporting the joint proposal when first introduced in November, Mayor Vigeant stated that he had championed the adoption of the hotels tax several years ago which eventually became the MEDC and resulted in commercial growth.
Among those attending the council meeting to demonstrate support for the meal tax was Bob Pino, coach and member of the Board of Directors of the Marlborough Youth Lacrosse League.
“We travel to a lot of fields throughout the area and play on all nice fields,” he said. “We are using Ward Park which needs resurfacing and general improvements.”
Pino said they often have scheduling problems because there isn's an available field for home games because all are being used.
Also in attendance were Jeff Rudzinsky, athletic director at Marlborough High School, and Chuck Thebado of the city's Recreation Department staff.