Lombardi: Sign at N.S. Athletic Fields unauthorized, may have been ‘joke’

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – Residents reacted this week to a sign posted outside the fence by the North Smithfield High School Athletic fields stating the facility is off limits to the town’s taxpayers. But according to School Committee Chairman James Lombardi, the unauthorized message may have been a joke.

The somewhat mysterious sign advised residents not to walk or run on the track; play basketball, frisbee, disk golf, football or soccer; go sledding or tubing, adding, “you could go fly a kite.”

“Just go do it somewhere else,” the sign stated. “The gates are locked for a reason.”

Residents photographed the message, posting complaints on social media.

But Lombardi noted that the gates are currently locked due to ongoing construction of new bathrooms and concession stands by the fields. The project, planned as a condition of approval in 2020 of Green’s 38-megawatt solar farm on Iron Mine Hill Road, is expected to be complete by graduation this year.

“The track and basketball courts are open, but the upper gate is locked,” Lombardi said. “The complication now is construction of the bathrooms.”

The district is in the process of creating a schedule for ongoing use of the athletic facilities, which will be open to the public when not in use by the schools or other outside groups, according to the chairman. Ongoing discussions have centered on how to address maintenance and the problem of litter, while still allowing residents to take advantage of the recent improvements, such as newly-laid turf.

“We expect it to be open to the public when not in use,” he said.

Lombardi said the sign was not produced by school officials, but appeared a few weeks ago, and was taken down.

“I assume the sign is a joke,” Lombardi said. “It was not authorized by the School Department. If it’s up now, it will be taken down.”

NRI NOW will publish information on the facility use schedule once it becomes available.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. The idea that we are going to rent the field and make it a revenue generating assets is absurd. While I agree that if a league is going to use the field or facilities on a scheduled basis the league should pay something for custodial maintenance and cleanup along with a small usage fee as other districts charge. But taxpayers who wish to walk the track each day or play basketball with a small group when the field is not is use should not have to pay a fee. The problem with the facility is the ridiculous dollars spent to build and then replace the field instead of making a sound financial decision and now school officials believe they can add additional fees to make up for a bad decision in the first place. When making a capital decision one must look at the upfront costs along with the longer term maintenance costs and additional operating expense to make sure the budget can afford the additional annual costs. From a taxpayers lens this analysis was never done or was ignored because some unqualified school management just wanted to show off a shiny new field to the rest of the state and look like a billionaire. If the town had done a true realistic financial analysis over a 20 year period the town would have found that a grass field would have cost 70% less over 20 years and was the more prudent decision. But when school management with no financial experience, concern for the taxpayer and thinks the town has an endless pot of money is how these type of decisions are made. Maybe we need a new group of experienced leaders instead of current union based regime.

    • Ditto. I will add that while our preference is to approve and allow any and all comments, if impersonating and/or trolling becomes an issue, we will begin rejecting comments and may have to require security steps/verification to post.

  2. What some consider a joke, others find insulting. And what type of in-house investigation has been conducted to rule school department employees out? To my knowledge the track around the field is not open contrary to quotes by Jim L, unless hopping the fence is an option. And now they are considering a company to assist in scheduling groups. First and foremost it belongs to the taxpayers, we take precedence.

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