BRAG makes progress checking off work list; seeks more public involvement
By Wayne E. Rivet
Slowly but surely, the BRAG sports complex “To Do” list is shrinking.
While it appears the multi-field recreation complex off Route 302 in Bridgton will not be ready for a town vote to assume ownership in June, BRAG officials are optimistic that all T’s will be crossed and I’s dotted by fall.
“We’re making steady progress,” Bridgton Recreation Advancement Group (BRAG) president Bill Macdonald told selectmen at a recent workshop meeting. “The remaining money we have will cover drainage (Field 4/soccer field) and septic. Our focus will then turn to getting the concession building up.”
The price tags for drainage and septic work have been estimated at $20,000 and $10,000, respectively, which will significantly draw down BRAG’s project account.
BRAG is in fundraising mode, offering a variety of ways the public can invest in the sports complex (see Page 10A). BRAG Vice President Larry Carter said response to the “purchase a business sign” project has been very good. The hope is to sell between 20 to 30 metal signs, which are placed on the outfield fences at the complex. Businesses or groups can purchase a sign for a year or three years.
Carter pointed out that the metal is from Everlast Roofing, while the lettering is done by Muddy River Signs, both of Bridgton.
“If anything happens to a sign, BRAG takes care of it,” Carter said. “We’re hoping to bring in about $20,000 with these signs. They are taken down for the winter, and go back up in April.”
One major expense BRAG is looking at is tapping into a water source. Depending upon the depth of the well, estimated costs could be $13,000 to $15,000.
Selectman Bear Zaidman asked whether BRAG had contacted the Bridgton Water Department regarding the cost of running a water line (tapping into the town’s water system) from Sandy Creek Road to the complex.
“Rex (Rolfe) felt we would be talking about a lot more money — more than $15,000 — if we went that route,” Carter said.
“It would be worth looking into,” Zaidman said.
Another option would be to tap into Stevens Brook during the summer months, Carter noted.
As for the concession building, Macdonald said BRAG has several people lined up to construct the building, but money or material donations are needed.
Macdonald pointed out that BRAG is just one of 60 to 65 local organizations that seek financial help from local businesses.
“We’re all fighting for the same dollars,” he said. He added that some previous grants that BRAG did manage to land will no longer be available.
When asked again about launching a capital campaign to finance the final pieces so that the complex can be presented to the town for acceptance, BRAG member Corinne Davis said what continues to hold the group back is lack of numbers.
“We need other people to step up and get involved. You can’t expect the same people to do everything,” she said. “Some of us have been doing this for a long time. It’s time for others to take our places.”
When Richard Bouthillette left Westbrook and moved to Bridgton, he wanted to become involved in his new community. So, he joined BRAG. He saw what Davis said.
“People are burned out,” he told selectmen. “There is no new blood.”
So, Bouthillette offered to handle the group’s publicity. He is using all means to stir up interest, as well as to encourage local children’s parents to get involved.
Bridgton Rec Director Gary Colello said his most difficult task is finding volunteers, be it to coach rec teams or officiate. He also felt increasing fees would be detrimental, since he already sees a number of scholarship requests each sports season.
Selectman Bob McHatton suspects that some parents truly lack time to volunteer due to work schedules, which could include two jobs to make ends meet, as well as having to travel outside of town.
Although a couple of issues remain, McHatton feels BRAG has done a solid job developing a major project, and the town should be prepared to take it over and maintain the complex.
Macdonald suggested that one way rec teams could help out with the complex is to donate one hour each week to help maintain the fields.
Zaidman pointed west to find ways to take the sports complex to the next level. Zaidman cited the success Brad Littlefield and Co. has had in developing a new Rec Center in Fryeburg.
“Maybe Brad could give us a few pointers on how they did things,” Zaidman said.
While other amenities could be added to the complex, such as tennis courts and walking paths, Zaidman said the focus right now should be completion of what is on the table and see if taxpayers are behind taking over the complex and maintaining it.
BRAG member Willie Angelone wondered if the group could team up with the town’s new grant writer, which could increase BRAG’s chances of landing more financial assistance.
The success of any group is the involvement of many. Bill Macdonald has seen what Bridgton can accomplish — building a skating rink and installing lights at Jr. Harmon Field — when folks rally around a cause.
“When the community comes together, good things can happen,” he said.
BRAG members plan to update selectmen in the spring as to what’s been done and what’s left to do.