Selectmen notes: Batting cages, netting in budget; new BOKS trainer hired

meghan hill

MEGHAN HILL is the new BOKS trainer for Bridgton Recreation, who will lead students at Stevens Brook Elementary School in an early-morning exercise program.


By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Selectmen agreed Tuesday to allow high-impact sports to be practiced inside Town Hall this spring, but are budgeting for netting and batting cages to protect against damage in future seasons.

Lacrosse Coach Ryan Vogel and another lacrosse supporter, Dan Harnden, appealed in person to the board to preserve the sport’s practice time, lest the town’s fledgling program fall behind competitively.

“By April we’ll be out in the fields,” Harnden said. Now in its fourth year, the lacrosse program started out with around 25–30 children and has since grown to serve 90 children. Harnden said the Bridgton Recreation program works with a lacrosse league in South Portland, and now has a K-2 clinic as well. Coach Vogel showed the board the softer version of the lacrosse balls that are used inside to minimize any damage to the Town Hall’s ceiling and walls.

Selectman Paul Hoyt wanted the baseball and softball programs that practice inside Town Hall to also be given a pass this year, providing those programs also use soft practice balls and that no inside batting is allowed. The board agreed.

The actions came as Recreation Director Gary Colello provided the board with estimates for a 50-foot long collapsible batting tunnel and ceiling netting that could be used inside the historic North High Street building, which is also used for Town elections. The full range of protective equipment totals around $10,000, and Colello acknowledged that some of it “might be out of our range.”

Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said he visited a gym with basic protective netting and believed it would provide a good compromise to allow high-impact sports to continue inside the building. The board agreed to include the equipment in this year’s budget and “let it run its course,” according to member Bob McHatton.

“We just replaced 22 ceiling tiles in that building” that were damaged by errant balls, McHatton said. “We found baseballs in the ceiling.”

Cash calendar

Several other recreation-related issues were discussed Tuesday. The board agreed with a plan by Colello to raise money for rec programs by using a “cash calendar” similar to ones used by school athletic departments. Colello said the calendar has the potential to raise $9,000 for the lacrosse program alone, based on the number of participants. The $2,500 currently budgeted for lacrosse “doesn’t even come close” to providing all that the program needs, he said. Drawings would be held three times a year, and businesses would be asked to participate as well.

Meet the trainer

Colello also introduced Meghan Hill, whom he hired recently to run a new before-school exercise program for students at Stevens Brook Elementary School. The BOKS (Build Our Kids Success) program, intended to spark a child’s mind and body for better learning during the school day, will run from March 3 to May 2 and is funded by a grant from the Reebok Corporation. The fee for participation is $25 per child.

Hill is a Bridgton native and 2005 graduate of Lake Region High School with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She worked as a Head Start teacher before she and her husband moved back to Maine in October. She’ll lead the children in a variety of running, jumping, lifting and throwing exercises from 7:30 to 8:15 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Breakfast will be available to all participants. Colello said school officials are “right on board” with the program. In fact, it was school administrators who proposed it. Colello said he hopes to track each student’s academic performance during the program to document improvements.

More for lawyers

In other action Tuesday, the board:

• Approved an hourly rate increase request by the town’s legal firm, DrummondWoodsum of Portland. The rate will increase from $125/$135 to $135/$145, with associates paid at the lower rate and shareholders at the higher rate. Even after the increase, the rate reflects a significant discount from the $175–$200 an hour rate DrummondWoodsum regularly charges, Berkowitz said. He said the firm has served as Bridgton’s legal counsel for around two decades, and has not increased its rate since 2006.

“They’ve provided excellent legal services, and they are the creators of many of the things that we deal with,” in terms of ordinances and town policies, Berkowitz said. The Fryeburg law firm of Hastings/Malia also expressed interest in serving the town, but their rate was $165 an hour.

Recognition Barbeque

• The board agreed to hold a second annual recognition barbeque for committee volunteers and employees on June 2 at Camp Wildwood in Bridgton. Members said last year’s barbeque went very well, although they wished more people had attended. Board Chairman Doug Taft and member Bernie King agreed to cook up the hamburgers and hot dogs. The board decided not to single out any one person for a special recognition award, believing all those who volunteer should be appreciated equally for their service. A budget of around $750 was approved for the event.

Solid waste study

• The board set a date of Tuesday, March 4, to hold a workshop with the Recycling Committee to review findings in the committee’s report that recommended continuing the town’s membership in ecomaine. The 38-page report concluded that ecomaine’s recent elimination of its member assessment charge and lowering of tipping fees leaves it as the best option for the town. The board had earlier voted to consider ending its contract with the trash-to-energy provider and has until July 1 to make a decision.

CDBG priorities

• The board agreed to have the Community Development Block Grant Committee focus this year primarily on municipal projects for using this year’s annual CDBG allotment, estimated at $180,000, with $125,000 available for projects. Selectmen agreed that the priorities should be the Depot Street streetscape improvements, Town Hall and possibly pumps and a generator for the Wastewater Department.

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