Scoreboard issue gets pitched to the planning commission

By Mal Boright

The Williston Selectboard Monday night took a few mighty swings at the hot issue of an electronic scoreboard for the Little League field in the historic district and finally belted it over the fence and smack dab into the back yard of the Planning Commission.

Asked by Selectboard Chairwoman Ginny Lyons whether zoning ordinances should be amended to allow the scoreboard, all members said “yes,” although Selectman Jeff Fehrs conditioned his thumbs up on approval by the Recreation Committee and the Historic Preservation Commission.

There was no similar agreement on the companion issues of advertising on the scoreboard and on the fences surrounding the field.

Asked if there should be advertising on a scoreboard, Selectmen Andy Mikell and Terry Macaig said “yes” within reason, while Fehrs agonized a bit, saying, “In a perfect world, no. But if we can get a donation, we need to take a good, hard look at it. It could be $5,000 we don’t have to put on the taxpayer.”

The estimated cost of the scoreboard is $5,000. Coca-Cola Corp. has offered to donate the board with a sign on it advertising one of its products. A Williston health club, Sports and Fitness Edge, has also offered to buy a scoreboard.

Selectman Ted Kenney said he opposes advertising on the scoreboard, pointing to the historic district as his primary concern. He added that he is interested in hearing more from the Planning Commission.

Lyons agreed with Kenney, adding that she, too, wants to hear from the Planning Commission.

As for advertising signs around the fences, Mikell and Macaig were in support while Kenney, Lyons and Fehrs were more skeptical.

While Selectboard members gave the issue a needed public airing, it apparently is going to be some months before there is much action.

Williston Town Planner Lee Nellis told the Observer that it would be October at the earliest before the Planning Commission can take up the issue.

“Our agenda is full until Oct. 25,” Nellis said.

Little League spokesman Mike Healy was somewhat surprised at the planners’ timeline. He said the scoreboard must be ordered during the winter for installation by the start of the 2006 schedule.

“The question remains how is it (scoreboard) going to be funded, and however it is funded, will advertising be allowed,” Healy said.

He added that the meeting went “Pretty much as I expected.”

The vote to send the issue to the Planning Commission was without dissent.

In its package to the Planning commission, the board also returned its memo on the issue in which Nellis pretty much rejected the idea of zoning changes for the scoreboard.

“We would ask the Planning commission to bring back to us some alternatives we can work with,” said Lyons. “That would include advertising, if any, as well as advertising on the scoreboard.”

In responding to questions from the board as to whether the proposed scoreboard is being used as a necessary lure for regional and state little league tournament games, Healy said, “The scoreboard is for the kids.”

He added that the scoreboard is for regular season games, and while “we would like to position ourselves to host a regional tournament, it is not now in our plans.”

In opening this portion of the meeting, Lyons noted the intense public interest the issue has garnered.

“I’ve had e-mail from people on every single side of this issue,” she said. “It seems at first a no-brainer, but it brings out everybody.”

The Planning Commission is expected to hold a public hearing before making its recommendations to the Selectboard.


Other business

In other business, the board approved preliminary drawings for a new police station on the site of the current fire station that would be torn down, and a new fire station on U.S. Route 2 and Talcott Road.

Project manager Alan Brown of Dore and Whittier, said the project has a way to go, pointing out that the next steps will be the Development Review Board and the Historic Preservation Commission.

“Our interest in this is the financial integrity and the integrity of the buildings,” said Lyons. She told the board that there are some conditions at the proposed fire station site on the former Mahan Farm on Route 2 “that we have not talked about.”