Hudson plans put new dugouts on deck

HUDSON–Baseball dugouts, a playground closure and other facilities issues dominated the discussion at the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education meeting June 3.

“We’ve spent a lot of money in the past three years on football and track. Now it’s time to do something for baseball and softball,” said schools Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier. “We need six new dugouts, including three with storage for equipment. But I want to make sure the baseball community is getting what it wants and needs. It needs to be part of the decision process.”

The district has four baseball and softball fields, with six dugouts among them on the grounds of both the Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School (MCS) and Hudson High School, explained HCSD Athletic Director Derek Reardon the next day. The high school grounds have the modified baseball, modified softball, Varsity-JV softball fields. The MCS grounds have the Varsity-JV baseball field. Both Varsity-JV fields and the modified baseball field have two dugouts each. The modified softball field has no dugout, Mr. Reardon said. The modified baseball dugouts were built by Connor McCagg (class of 2018) in 2016 for his Eagle Scout project, and “nothing will happen to them.” It is the other dugouts that face replacement.

At the June 3 meeting, Dr. Suttmeier reviewed three possibilities for the dugouts: concrete, metal, and “get-someone-to-make-it.” Concrete is the most expensive, she said. Metal does not ventilate well and can get hot.

Technology teacher Jack Beyer verified the day after the meeting that the district is considering whether his students could build dugouts. “We need to talk with [Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds] George Keeler, and see whether we can do it” while meeting building code standards. In addition, “We can do it only in wood,” which requires more maintenance than concrete or metal, he said.

To have the new dugouts ready for the start of the baseball season next spring is the goal but, “We would have to build them in the fall, because we can’t work outside in winter,” Mr. Beyer added.

At the June 3 meeting, district Business Administrator Sharifa Carbon discussed possibilities for paying for the dugouts. The six could cost $180,000 together. The district’s repair reserve has $715,000 and its unrestricted fund is $2.3 million. The district could consider the new dugouts a repair of the old dugouts. But using the repair reserve would require a public hearing. The unrestricted fund was meant for one-time expenses.

Board-member-elect Justin Elliott, who has coached football for the district, asked, “Why is baseball still played on MCS grounds. Is it cost effective?” Mr. Elliott also reported, speaking with parents who “hated” the MCS fields because the only place they could sit “cut them out of the game.”

“We had intentions to put baseball at the High School, but the baseball coaches and teams wanted to stay at MCS and have their premier field there,” explained Dr. Suttmeier.

Meanwhile, board member Sage Carter reported that although the playground at the now-closed John L. Edwards School on State Street in Hudson has been locked, “people are hopping the fence and using it.” The district is still liable for activities on the former school site. The danger of an injury will increase after the removal of the rubber chips on the playground, so Mr. Keeler will auction off the playground equipment. One person at the meeting said she hoped that it would go to a place with children.

The rubber will be “repurposed ” and taken to MCS. This will require two truckloads and cost $40,000.

Ms. Carter also reported that the High School pool will close at the end of the school year for maintenance and reopen after mid-July. In addition, construction at MCS over the summer will include stair and sidewalk improvements, as well as new seats for the auditorium.

Also at the June 3 meeting:

• Two departing staff members thanked the HCSD.

“I worked in Connecticut for 15 years but never felt more at home than I did in my four years at the HCSD. I just love being here,” said Jane Blakeman, a teaching assistant and swim and soccer coach, whose husband’s retirement led to a decision to move away.

The board accepted with regret the retirement of head custodian Richard June, after 40 years. “We’re going to miss you, Rich,” said Dr. Suttmeier.

“I’ll miss you too,” responded Mr. June

• Dr. Suttmeier expressed “amazement” at the performance of children on string instruments at a recent Project Harmony concert. “They would not be able to do it in our music program,” she said. “The older students were mentoring the younger ones,” added Ms. Carter.

The next meeting of the HCSD Board of Education will take place Monday, June 17, at 6:30 PM, at the High School library.

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