By Kim Siebert MacPhail
On June 11, at their final meeting of the academic year, Superintendent Jon Sills asked the School Committee to consider whether a portion of the Mudge Fund should be used to pay for a study and design of a new press box at Sabourin Field. The current press box—deemed unsafe by Code Enforcement—was not functional for the fall 2012 football season; instead, the announcer, camera crew, and coaching staff were raised above the field on a hydraulic lift for each home game.
Sills gave some background information about the Mudge Fund, which was established in the early 1900’s to support recreational needs in the school. It was begun with what now would be considered minimal funds—about $2,000—and has been tapped in times of need for items— such as sports equipment— that fall within with the parameters of the bequest.
District Finance Director David Coelho said that the fund currently has a little over $224,000 in it with interest earnings lately in the $4,000-$5,000 range annually. Veteran School Committee members added that, in an effort to protect the principal, traditionally only the interest has been used even though no formal or legal stipulations exist that prohibit using more than a single year’s accrued interest. Because it has not been accessed every year, the total in the fund has risen to its current level.
If the Committee were to agree use Mudge funds for the study and design, the press box’s construction costs would later be submitted to the Capital Expenditures Committee (CapEx) in order to fund the reconstruction phase.
School Committee members had various questions about and reactions to the proposal:
- Is the press box a want or a need; a necessity or merely “nice to have”?
- If it’s true that only a handful of people use the press box each year, how much benefit would the whole community derive from the expense?
- Should the press box be the School’s responsibility if it is a town asset, as the field and stadium are?
- Should more than the fund’s annual interest be used in any one year?
- If a press box is deemed a necessity, what about amenities for the field, like rest rooms?
Sills noted that once installation of artificial turf on the field is complete this fall, more sports are expected to make use of the press box. He added that, although the structure of the press box appears simple, the need for wiring— among other things— made the project more complex.
In response to whether the press box was needed or wanted, Sills provided the context that there are few, in any, schools that operate a sports program without one. Continuing to use the hydraulic lift—as was suggested by Committee members—“puts us in a strange place relative to other schools,” Sills said.
Members asked that Athletic Director Keith Mangan be invited to speak with them about the matter to help them understand why the press box is important to Bedford school sports. “We need to have the Athletic department tell us why this is warranted,” explained Committee member Ann Guay. “This is a little out of our wheelhouse, for some of us.”
Guay also proposed that a cost-sharing solution be considered between multiple parties and Committee Chair Ed Pierce added that he was not inclined to deviate from the practice of only using the Mudge Fund’s interest in a given year. Finance Director Coelho commented that he would not recommend that the Fund be “raided indiscriminately.”