Yes, the MVRHS needs a new track. But not this way nor for this much.

From a purely economic standpoint, this proposed spending is problematic in several ways.

First, the purpose of excess and deficiency funds is to allow schools to have funding to, according to the Massachusetts state legislature, be used to “reduce assessments” and pay for emergency needs such as a leaky roof or a broken heat system. They are typically not monies to be used for a school’s capital projects.

Second, the $350,000 that voters are being asked to spend is only the tip of the iceberg. The total estimated cost of this phase one track and plastic field project is $4 million, which is just a fraction of the $16.9 million for the entire athletic campus plan. Shouldn’t we be allocating this kind of money to fix the many urgent MVRHS building needs, including the failing HVAC system, which is estimated to cost about $5 million?

Third, there is no guarantee that this design with an expensive, highly controversial surface, will be approved by the town of Oak Bluffs and Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Taxpayers are being asked to approve $350,000 for a set of plans that the school might not be able use because the engineering for a track with a grass infield is entirely different than one with a plastic infield.

Fourth, towns are also being asked to consider spending $1.4 million on a feasibility study for the MVRHS. Couldn’t the new plans for the projected $100 million MVRHS rebuild project affect the field and landscape design? Why isn’t the school incorporating the track and fields into its master plan? Wouldn’t this be a more efficient and thoughtful approach to spending?

Finally, with all the significant capital expenses for our community on the horizon — the Tisbury School and the MVRHS rebuild chiefly among them — why would we vote to spend $350,000 to design a track, grandstands, a press box and a $1.4 million field that will need to be replaced in seven to 10 years for another $500,000?

This is why we urge the voters of Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury to please vote no on spending $350,000 for design of a new MVRHS track and plastic game field.

Mollie Doyle, Dardanella Slavin, Rebekah Thomson


The writers are founders of The Field Fund Inc.