By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Grafton – The town’s Super Park project once again came before the voters, as the subject was debated at the Oct. 19 Town Meeting (TM). But unlike a request at the spring TM, the voters approved a warrant at the fall TM for funding for the project.
Article 5 requested that $290,000 be appropriated from the Surplus Account to pay for a “play structure” at 4-6 Upton St. This new park will replace a former playground that was torn down on Providence Road when the new high school was built.
Two articles on the spring TM warrant had sought a total of $243,000 for the first phase of the Super Park’s land acquisition. The committee was successful in securing $100,000 from Community Preservation funds but voters did not approve a request for $143,000 in fund that remained after the Grafton Fire Station was built.
Proponents of the park addressed TM from the stage at the Oct. 19 TM to make their case for the appropriation. An audience member pleaded for the park so as to increase the value of the town by making it more child- and adult-friendly, while another voter pleaded loudly to “be a kid!” and support the park.
Proponents said that Phase 1 would cost $390,000 and Phase 2 would cost $248,000, for a total of $638,000. This would be in addition to the $290,000 sought. They also noted that the new Super Park would be compliant with the American with Disabilities Act and might, at additional cost, include a splash pad.
Joel Schwendemann, the chair of the Finance Committee, then reported that FINCOM did not support this allocation, as its calculations showed that Phase 1 would in fact cost closer to $500,000 and the total cost of the park to that stage would cost approximately $800,000. He suggested that this project should stand in line with all other capital expenditures waiting for funding.
To this, Selectman Brook Padgett noted that other town projects developed from a committee had not needed to be on the capital expenditures list but could, as had Super Park, be brought to Town Meeting by petition. Another voter mentioned that this vote needed only a majority to pass where the vote at the previous town meeting had required a 2/3 majority to pass. In all, ten voters spoke in favor of the park, with seven against.
After an hour’s debate, the question was moved and passed by a majority to voter applause. Immediately after the vote, over half of the audience rose and left the auditorium, their work for the evening done.