The Spinelli Field Ad-Hoc Committee heard a presentation Wednesday of potential improvements to the athletic facility.

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BENNINGTON — Tensions were running high when a vote on dilapidated Spinelli Field came up Wednesday night.

The Spinelli Field Ad Hoc Committee addressed the Mount Anthony Union School District Board of Directors at its regular meeting.

Board member Chaila Sekora represented the committee and said the committee has met “basically every month for the last three months to make a new plan for the field.” There are ongoing safety issues on the existing field and track; when a player slips on the field, it’s an occurrence so common that it’s been dubbed “the Spinelli slip.”

Voters shot down a bond that would have paid for its repair back in 2021.

The committee is proposing a “trimmed down” plan that would have a turf field installed, the track resurfaced and updated lighting around the field, according to Sekora.

There were two action items on the agenda Wednesday regarding Spinelli field. The first was to vote on authorization for a geotechnical engineering and survey. The second was to review the findings and recommendations of the committee.

The geotechnical engineering and survey is paramount, because it must be done prior to any physical work on the field.

“We’re kind of in a time crunch,” said Sekora. If the process doesn’t begin now, the project won’t break ground until spring and the field won’t be available for use in the fall.

There is also a looming concern that the field will cost more money the longer the project is delayed, because of ongoing labor shortages and the rising price of supplies.

The motion that was put before the board was to authorize no more than $35,000 to pay for the geotechnical engineering and survey — the idea being that the board can invest money now so members can see what is necessary for the field to be completed. The survey is necessary to acquire the permits for the project, and will not expire if the project is pushed back.

Timothy Payne, principal at Mount Anthony Union High School, said the $35,000 needs to be spent for the survey regardless of when the Spinelli Field project occurs. “That goes with us forever. That’s not gonna change.”

During the discussion about the motion, board member Jackie Kelly raised a concern about PFOAs possibly being in the new field, but the board deemed the concern not relevant to the action item being discussed.

When it was time to vote, seven board members voted in favor, and it passed. One board member, Francis Kinney, opposed the motion. Kinney had strong feelings that he shared them with the board.

“The community told us no,” he said. He doesn’t think it’s right to go through a “backdoor” around the taxpayer, but “that’s the democratic way, I guess.”

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Leon Johnson, chairman of the board, attempted to get the meeting back to the agenda items, but Kinney began to yell and said, “If I have something to say, I’m gonna say it … I don’t give a good God damn what ... rules you wanna make.”

Johnson calmly responded, “You are supposed to respect other board members.”

Board member Stephanie Mulligan added, “We have not voted on [Spinelli Field], I want to be clear.” She said the board doesn’t have a clear reason as to why the town voted against the Spinelli project.

Sekora then addressed Kinney’s claim that the board was going around the taxpayers.

“We are not backdooring anything at this point, because we did not vote on anything.”

Kinney responded by yelling, “That is false.”

Johnson ended the discussion because of time constraints on the meeting.

Sekora was then scheduled to present the committee’s findings and recommendations for the field, but she withdrew that action item from the agenda. Board members posed questions to Sekora and the committee about the ability and financing of the project and Sekora wants to have the answers to their questions prior to presenting their findings. She said, “We will reflect on what our recommendation is.”

The board was supposed to connect with the committee to see if members had any questions prior to the meeting. Instead, that action item had to be delayed because a few board members had unanswered questions regarding PFOAs and maneuvering around taxpayers.

The chairman’s report was the next item on the agenda, and it seemed like Johnson was losing his patience.

“My job is to run an effective meeting and to educate the board members in here on what you can and cannot do,” he said. He reminded the board of the oath they signed when they took their position.

He said board members had to follow Robert’s Rules of Order.

“We owe it to the kids and this community. We owe it to the teachers and the administrators, and we owe it to ourselves,” he said.


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