Vision Sports Design, Poets Corner

UPDATED May 13: The fifth session of the 2023 annual Town Meeting, on Monday, May 8, approved the Minuteman appropriation of $8.9 million, completing 36 of 72 articles, and debated at length Article 12 (artificial turf) without a vote before adjourning to Wednesday, May 10.

Here are the votes on the Minuteman appropriation >>

At left is one concept for sports fields at Poets Corner, in west Arlington near St. Camillus Catholic Church, by Vision Sports Design. For more, read here >>

The $8.9 million vote to approve the town’s share of the operational and maintenance costs of Minuteman was 203 in favor, 20 opposed and 7 abstaining.

Out-of-district enrollment increases

Superintendent Kathleen Dawson, in requesting this funding, said the school’s budget provides for key educational objectives in a safe environment. 

“Out-of-district enrollment has increased, providing less revenue. The FY24 assessment is more than $25 million, a 13.78 percent increase," she said.

“This budget request meets all staffing needs, including hiring three more full-time teachers, and provides for the growth and improvement of our programs, teaching and learning. We work hard to receive grants, and this year we received $3 million,” said Dawson.

Michael Ruderman (9), Arlington’s representative to Minuteman Tech, said that all collective bargaining for the next three years is done.

Enrollment vs. expenses

Mark Kaepplein (9) queried that although student enrollment is up 10 percent, operating expenses are up 27.8 percent, and asked the source of this increase.

Dawson responded that most of this increase is taken up by high teachers’ salaries, wanting to provide the best possible education for the students, and that two-thirds of the staff are at the top of the salary schedule. 

“This is why per-pupil expenses are this high. As we bring in new teachers, lower salaries could remedy this. But we value our teachers and are willing to pay them what they deserve; 77 percent of our budget goes to salaries.” To offset these costs, Dawson added, “We seek out grants as much as possible.”

Minuteman Tech’s business manager, Nikki Andrade, added that “the major drivers are new teachers’ contracts and inflation.”

Ruderman says all relevant information pertaining to this issue is on the town’s website.

Artificial turf installation moratorium discussed

Town Meeting discussed the pros and cons of Article 12, Vote/Three-Year Moratorium on the Installation of Artificial Turf on Town Land, and discussed a series of substitute motions.

ACMi covers Poets Corner surprise:

Select Board Chair Eric Helmuth said,  "The Select Board ... strongly urges no action on Article 12," and believes that the town has existing "balanced policy and regulatory bodies" that adequately address health, environmental an d recreational considerations with regard to artificial turf decisions, citing the Conservation Commission, Board of Health, Park and Recreation Commission and the Town Manager."

He said the board also believes that a turf moratorium is "not the right tool for this nuanced question" of how to balance potential health and environmental hazards of artificial turf with recreational needs, and prefers a site-by-site decision-making process by those existing town bodies to consider the hazards and whether mitigation can be put into place on a given site.

Select Board member John Hurd (18) said, “This is a state issue. If the state has resources to make an informed decision on artificial turf, it levels the playing field for our athletes. There’s been a devaluing of playing fields for our children, and we don’t have enough fields. 

“I hope Town Meeting supports the Select Board’s recommendation of no action,” said Town Manager Sandy Pooler. Further study is important. I’d create a committee to look at the composition of fields used to construct artificial fields, and at the environmental impact of all playing fields and their related health issues.”

Pooler added that the town received written notice May 8 from Belmont Hill School that it is pulling out of any funding of Poets Hill Corner. The private school had previously expressed interested in developing playing fields at Poets Corner for student athletic activities.

Parks & Recreation Commission Chair Phil Lasker said, “I’m devastated that Belmont Hill School has withdrawn from the Poets Corner project. Studies show that synthetic turf is safe. Poets Corner is still a great location to explore the use of synthetic turf.”

Andy Greenspon (5) said that Poets Corner is in a state of disrepair, and Arlington lacks the funds to repair it. “I seek a compromise position.”

Substitute motions/amendments proposed

Beth Melofchik (9) offered a substitute motion to Article 12 that would establish a study committee, and pause any artificial turf until at least 2025. 

“PFAS are toxic, and I don’t want any exposure to it. All artificial turf has PFAS, which leaches into water bodies, and there are no safe levels of PFAS. These plastic particles are toxic “forever” chemicals” that increase cancer risks. Artificial turf releases chemicals that affect climate change, are not recycled in the United States and is a disposal nightmare. Plastic fields are not safe,” said Melofchik.

Sanjay Vakil (12) concurred that PFAS is a real problem and made a motion to amend this article: “Incremental exposure to chemicals in PFAS is minimal, but real.”

“Sanjay’s amendment discusses why we need a study committee,” said Jordan Weinstein (21).

Robin Bergman (12) said, “These chemicals have rarely been regulated. There are 12,000 to 14,000 PFAS chemicals and the number continues to grow. Artificial turf sites are creating toxic sites, and there are no safe levels of PFAS. I support the Melofchik amendment.”

“Natural grass is a good thing. Arlington doesn’t have enough fields, especially in rainy weather,” said Paul Schlichtman (9), who recommended an amendment to Melofchik’s proposal: a one-year moratorium until 2024 Town Meeting, “so we can make informed decisions.”

Susan Stamps (3) said that Arlington is a progressive town, and a leader on environmental issues. “Putting poisons in the ground isn’t the direction we want to move in.” Stamps also recommended a one-year moratorium, to establish an artificial turf study committee, which would prepare a report for 2024’s Town Meeting.

Discussion continued at session six on Wednesday, May 10.

Committee reports submitted

Under Article 3, Reports of Committees, the following report was submitted to Town Meeting:

Permanent Town Building Committee―presented by Chair Alan Reedy (16), and unanimously received. “This report oversees major construction sites, and the full report is on our website,” said Reedy. The following projects were done this past year:

  • Community Center―$8.9 million. Upgraded the HVAC systems and building’s exterior and infrastructure, and renovated the ground, first and second floors. This building supports the Council on Aging, Senior Center, Department of Health and Human Services and Veterans’ Services. 
  • Town Yard and Municipal Services Building―$46.8 million. Building a new administration and maintenance building, performing extensive renovations to existing historical buildings and salt shed. Supports Public Works, Inspectional Services and IT Support.

“We’re delivering these projects to the town relatively on time, as close to budget as possible, and appreciate the town’s support, added Reedy.

In addition, read meeting notes from Christian Klein (10) >>
Watch the May 8 meeting on ACMi:
Belmont Hill won't fund turf, 2 statements say

Town Manager Sandy Pooler issued a town alert on May 8 noting information he had received from Belmont Hill School, near Poets Corner. Read his brief memo >>

Later on May 8, Select Board member Diane Mahon posted the following titled "Poets Corner Statement" on the Arlington email list. She provided no source for it:

"Since Belmont Hill [School] began exploring the Poet's Corner opportunity more than three years ago, unfortunately many circumstances have changed. We have entered an inflationary period where[in] building costs are daunting and borrowing rates are exceptionally high.

"Simultaneously, our school continues to prioritize our East Campus project, having navigated the Belmont Planning Board process over the past year and recently received approval to proceed with our plans. While Belmont Hill [School] has pursued the Poets Corner partnership in good faith for a number of years at considerable expense, our trustees have recently decided that it would be prudent to put this project on hold for the foreseeable future.

"We want to take this chance to thank the Arlington Parks and Recreation Department, the Archdiocese and the Town of Arlington for all of the collaborative work on this partnership. We hope circumstances might allow us to reconsider this kind of investment at some point in the future."

6 amendments to Melofchik motion

Six amendments have been proposed for the Melofchik motion and have been linked in the annotated warrant under Article 12.  The moderator has prepared a composite document where readers can see all the amendments in one place.

In addition, a second substitute motion was submitted by Gene Benson and Susan Stamps.

Below is a list of the new motions and the order of debate and votes. 

Amendment, Sanjay Vakil, Precinct 12
Amendment, Andrew Greenspon, Precinct 5
Amendment, Paul Schlichtman, Precinct 9
Amendment, Janice Pagliasotti, Precinct 8
Amendment 1, Greg Dennis, Precinct 1
Amendment 2, Greg Dennis, Precinct 1
Substitute Motion, Gene Benson, Precinct 10 and Susan Stamps, Precinct 3

Order of Motions and Votes

  • introduce Melofchik Substitute Motion
  • introduce Vakil Amendment
  • introduce Greenspon Amendment
  • introduce Schlichtman Amendment
  • introduce Pagliasotti Amendment
  • introduce Dennis Amendment 1 and Dennis Amendment 2 (same 7-minute speaking slot)
  • introduce Benson-Stamps Substitute Motion
  • debate all
  • vote Vakil Amendment
  • vote Greenspon Amendment
  • vote Schlichtman Amendment
  • vote Pagliasotti Amendment
  • vote Dennis Amendment 1
  • vote Dennis Amendment 2
  • vote Melofchik Substitute Motion (as amended or not; vote to replace Main Motion)
  • vote Benson-Stamps Substitute Motion (vote to replace Main Motion)
  • if Benson-Stamps Substitute Motion becomes the Main Motion, it is susceptible of division at the Moderator's discretion; if Melofchik Substitute Motion becomes the Main Motion, it is not susceptible of division due to dependence between parts.
  • vote Main Motion (possibly in two parts if divided)

Then the meeting plans to return to Article 30 (two-family open space) after completion of Article 12.

ACMi provides live coverage on the Government Channel (Comcast 22, RCN 614, Verizon 26) and streaming live at The locally based cable television station also typically will rebroadcast each session multiple times. 

The annotated warrant for the annual Town Meeting is available, but it does not contain the vote language or comments on the financial articles. They are to be added soon. 

Updates to the annotated warrant (amendments, substitute motions and presentations or statements are linked at the bottom of each article in the Additional Materials section):

Article 6 – Presentation submitted by John D. Leone, Precinct 8
Article 6 – Amendment by Chris Loreti, Precinct 7
Article 6 – Presentation by Chris Loreti, Precinct 7
Article 9 – Substitute Motion, Adam Badik, Precinct 5
Article 10 – Presentation by Clean Energy Future Committee
Article 10 – Letter from Pat Hanlon, Precinct 5
 Article 12 – FAQ submitted by Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21
Article 12 – Statement from the Board of Health (handout was on the table Wed) 
Article 12 – Letter from Program for Global Public Health submitted by Robin Bergman, Precinct 12
Article 12 – Letter from Greg Dennis, Precinct 1
Article 12 – Letter from Shaw Industries submitted by Larry Slotnick, Precinct 7
Article 12 – Letter from Sierra Club of Massachusetts submitted by Beth Melofchik, Precinct 9
Article 12 – Letter re: Helihon Study, Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21
Article 12 – Letter responding to Greg Dennis, Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21
Article 12 – background on PFAS in Shaw Turf, Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21 
Article 12 – Rebuttal of PRC statement, Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21
Article 12 – Letter, National Center for Health Research, Robin Bergman, Precinct 12
Article 12 – Statement re: Board of Health Statement, Beth Melofchik, Precinct 9
Article 12 – Letter from Christa Kelleher, Precinct 5
Article 12 – Presentation, Gene Benson Precinct 10, Susan Stamps Precinct 3 
Article 12 – AHS Rebuild-Order of Conditions per Conservation Commission, Gordon Jamieson, Precinct 12
Article 12 – Turf Committee Proposal, Town Manager
Article 12 – Chart of Committee Composition, Linda Hanson, Precinct 9
Article 12 – Flow chart for voting motions, Sanjay Newton, Precinct 10
Article 12 – Letter, Robin Bergman, Precinct 12
Article 14 – Substitute Motion, Lenard Diggins, Precinct 3
Article 29 – video by James Fleming, submitted by Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 30 – Background Usable Open Space, Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 30 – Memo, Claire Ricker, Director of DPCD 
Article 17 – Presentation by Larry Slotnick, Precinct 7
Article 19 – Background information, Paul Schlichtman, Precinct 9
Article 29 – Presentation by James Fleming, submitted by Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 30 – video by James Fleming, submitted by Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 30 – Presentation by James Fleming, submitted by Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 30 – Statement from Chris Loreti, Precinct 7
Article 30 – Memo from Director of Inspectional Services
Article 37 - Presentation on the APS Budget
Article 37 – Arlington Public Schools FY24 Report
Article 37 – Amendment by Mark Kaepplein, Precinct 9
Article 38 – Amendment by Judith Garber, Precinct 4
Article 38 – Letter submitted by Pat Hanlon, Precinct 5 and Alham Saadat, Precinct 4
Article 38 – Presentation of the Capital Planning Committee
 Article 44 – Minuteman School Budget
Letter, Mona Mandal, Precinct 9 
Article 48 – Conservation Commission Water Bodies Report
Article 49 – Presentation submitted by Liz Exton, Precinct 13
Article 49 – Presentation, Community Preservation Act Committee
Article 49 – Letter, Elaine Crowder, Precinct 19
Article 49 – Motion to Divide, Michael Jacoby Brown, Precinct 17

See the Town Meeting dashboard >>

The Select Board and public discussed articles this spring: Round 1Round 2Artificial turfRound 3Round 4 and Round 5

The following reports are available:

2022 Annual Town Report 

Arlington Redevelopment Board

Select Board

Capital Planning Committee

CPA Committee

CDBG Report

Remote Participation Study Committee

Robbins Library update on ATM 2019, Article 38 

Arlington Public Schools FY24

Conservation Commission Water Bodies Report 

AHS Building Project Report

YourArlington'smain 2023 Town Meeting link >> 

This news summary was published Tuesday, May 9, 2023, based on information from the Town of Arlington and YourArlington archives. It was updated May 10, to add a summary by YourArlington freelancer writer Susan Gilbert, a Minuteman vote link, the ACMi video window and to clarify and expand on quotations by Eric Helmuth. It was updated May 12, to add a link to Klein's notes, and May 13, to add ACMi vidoe window.